THE author of the Fourth Gospel was the younger of the two
sons of Zebedee, a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, who
resided at Bethsaida, where were born Peter and Andrew his
brother, and Philip also. His mother's name was Salome,
who, though not without her imperfections (
Mt 20:20-28), was one of those dear and honored women
who accompanied the Lord on one of His preaching circuits
through Galilee, ministering to His bodily wants; who
followed Him to the cross, and bought sweet spices to
anoint Him after His burial, but, on bringing them to the
grave, on the morning of the First Day of the week, found
their loving services gloriously superseded by His
resurrection ere they arrived. His father, Zebedee, appears
to have been in good circumstances, owning a vessel of his
own and having hired servants (
Mr 1:20). Our Evangelist, whose occupation was that of
a fisherman with his father, was beyond doubt a disciple of
the Baptist, and one of the two who had the first interview
with Jesus. He was called while engaged at his secular
Mt 4:21, 22), and again on a memorable occasion (
Lu 5:1-11), and finally chosen as one of the Twelve
Mt 10:2). He was the youngest of the Twelve--the
"Benjamin," as D A COSTA calls him--and he and
James his brother were named in the native tongue by Him
who knew the heart, "Boanerges," which the
Evangelist Mark (
Mr 3:17) explains to mean "Sons of thunder";
no doubt from their natural vehemence of
character. They and Peter constituted that select
triumvirate of whom see on Lu
9:28. But the highest honor bestowed on this disciple
was his being admitted to the bosom place with his Lord at
the table, as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (
Joh 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20:24), and to have committed to
him by the dying Redeemer the care of His mother (
Joh 19:26, 27). There can be no reasonable doubt that
this distinction was due to a sympathy with His own spirit
and mind on the part of John which the all-penetrating Eye
of their common Master beheld in none of the rest; and
although this was probably never seen either in his life or
in his ministry by his fellow apostles, it is brought out
wonderfully in his writings, which, in Christ-like
spirituality, heavenliness, and love, surpass, we may
freely say, all the other inspired writings.
After the effusion of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost,
we find him in constant but silent company with Peter, the
great spokesman and actor in the infant Church until the
accession of Paul. While his love to the Lord Jesus drew
him spontaneously to the side of His eminent servant, and
his chastened vehemence made him ready to stand
courageously by him, and suffer with him, in all that his
testimony to Jesus might cost him, his modest humility, as
the youngest of all the apostles, made him an admiring
listener and faithful supporter of his brother apostle
rather than a speaker or separate actor. Ecclesiastical
history is uniform in testifying that John went to Asia
Minor; but it is next to certain that this could not have
been till after the death both of Peter and Paul; that he
resided at Ephesus, whence, as from a center, he
superintended the churches of that region, paying them
occasional visits; and that he long survived the other
apostles. Whether the mother of Jesus died before this, or
went with John to Ephesus, where she died and was buried,
is not agreed. One or two anecdotes of his later days have
been handed down by tradition, one at least bearing marks
of reasonable probability. But it is not necessary to give
them here. In the reign of Domitian (A.D. 81-96) he was
banished to "the isle that is called Patmos" (a
small rocky and then almost uninhabited island in the
Ægean Sea), "for the word of God and for the
testimony of Jesus Christ" (
Re 1:9). IRENÆUS and EUSEBIUS say that this took
place about the end of Domitian's reign. That he was
thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil, and miraculously
delivered, is one of those legends which, though reported
by TERTULLIAN and JEROME, is entitled to no credit. His
return from exile took place during the brief but tolerant
reign of Nerva; he died at Ephesus in the reign of Trajan
[EUSEBIUS, Ecclesiastical History, 3.23], at an age
above ninety, according to some; according to others, one
hundred; and even one hundred twenty, according to others
still. The intermediate number is generally regarded as
probably the nearest to the truth.
As to the date of this Gospel, the arguments for its
having been composed before the destruction of Jerusalem
(though relied on by some superior critics) are of the
slenderest nature; such as the expression in
Joh 5:2, "there is at Jerusalem, by the
sheep-gate, a pool," &c.; there being no allusion
to Peter's martyrdom as having occurred according to
the prediction in
Joh 21:18 --a thing too well known to require mention.
That it was composed long after the destruction of
Jerusalem, and after the decease of all the other apostles,
is next to certain, though the precise time cannot be
determined. Probably it was before his banishment, however;
and if we date it between the years 90 and 94, we shall
probably be close to the truth.
As to the readers for whom it was more immediately
designed, that they were Gentiles we might naturally
presume from the lateness of the date; but the multitude of
explanations of things familiar to every Jew puts this
beyond all question.
No doubt was ever thrown upon the genuineness and
authenticity of this Gospel till about the close of the
eighteenth century; nor were these embodied in any formal
attack upon it till BRETSCHNEIDER, in 1820, issued his
famous treatise [Probabilia], the conclusions of
which he afterwards was candid enough to admit had been
satisfactorily disproved. To advert to these would be as
painful as unnecessary; consisting as they mostly do of
assertions regarding the Discourses of our Lord recorded in
this Gospel which are revolting to every spiritual mind.
The Tubingen school did their best, on their peculiar mode
of reasoning, to galvanize into fresh life this theory of
the post-Joannean date of the Fourth Gospel; and some
Unitarian critics still cling to it. But to use the
striking language of VAN OOSTERZEE regarding similar
speculations on the Third Gospel, "Behold, the feet of
them that shall carry it out dead are already at the
Ac 5:9). Is there one mind of the least elevation of
spiritual discernment that does not see in this Gospel
marks of historical truth and a surpassing glory such as
none of the other Gospels possess, brightly as they too
attest their own verity; and who will not be ready to say
that if not historically true, and true just as it
stands, it never could have been by mortal man composed
Of the peculiarities of this Gospel, we note here only two.
The one is its reflective character. While the
others are purely narrative, the Fourth Evangelist,
"pauses, as it were, at every turn," as DA COSTA
says [Four Witnesses, p. 234], "at one time to
give a reason, at another to fix the attention, to deduce
consequences, or make applications, or to give utterance to
the language of praise." See
Joh 2:20, 21, 23-25; 4:1, 2; 7:37-39; 11:12, 13, 49-52;
21:18, 19, 22, 23. The other peculiarity of this Gospel
is its supplementary character. By this, in the
present instance, we mean something more than the
studiousness with which he omits many most important
particulars in our Lord's history, for no conceivable
reason but that they were already familiar as household
words to all his readers, through the three preceding
Gospels, and his substituting in place of these an immense
quantity of the richest matter not found in the other
Gospels. We refer here more particularly to the
nature of the additions which distinguish this Gospel;
particularly the notices of the different Passovers which
occurred during our Lord's public ministry, and the
record of His teaching at Jerusalem, without which it is
not too much to say that we could have had but a most
imperfect conception either of the duration of His ministry
or of the plan of it. But another feature of these
additions is quite as noticeable and not less important.
"We find," to use again the words of D A COSTA
[Four Witnesses, pp. 238, 239], slightly abridged,
"only six of our Lord's miracles recorded in this
Gospel, but these are all of the most remarkable kind, and
surpass the rest in depth, specialty of application, and
fulness of meaning. Of these six we find only one in the
other three Gospels--the multiplication of the loaves. That
miracle chiefly, it would seem, on account of the important
instructions of which it furnished the occasion (
Joh 6:1-71), is here recorded anew. The five other
tokens of divine power are distinguished from among the
many recorded in the three other Gospels by their
furnishing a still higher display of power and command over
the ordinary laws and course of nature. Thus we find
recorded here the first of all the miracles that Jesus
wrought--the changing of water into wine (
Joh 2:1-11), the cure of the nobleman's son at a
Joh 4:43-54); of the numerous cures of the lame and the
paralytic by the word of Jesus, only one--of the man
impotent for thirty and eight years (
Joh 5:1-9); of the many cures of the blind, one
only--of the man born blind (
Joh 9:1-12); the restoration of Lazarus, not from a
deathbed, like Jairus' daughter, nor from a bier, like
the widow of Nain's son, but from the grave, and
after lying there four days, and there sinking into
Joh 11:1-44); and lastly, after His resurrection, the
miraculous draught of fishes on the Sea of Tiberias (
Joh 21:5-11). But these are all recorded chiefly to
give occasion for the record of those astonishing
discourses and conversations, alike with friends and with
foes, with His disciples and with the multitude which they
Other illustrations of the peculiarities of this Gospel
will occur, and other points connected with it be adverted
to, in the course of the Commentary.
1. In the beginning--of all time and created existence, for
this Word gave it being (
Joh 1:3, 10); therefore, "before the world
Joh 17:5, 24); or, from all eternity.
was the Word--He who is to God what
man's word is to himself, the manifestation or
expression of himself to those without him. (See on Joh 1:18). On the origin of this
most lofty and now for ever consecrated title of Christ,
this is not the place to speak. It occurs only in the
writings of this seraphic apostle.
was with God--having a conscious
personal existence distinct from God (as one is from
the person he is "with"), but inseparable from
Him and associated with Him (
Joh 1:18; Joh 17:5; 1Jo 1:2), where "THE
FATHER" is used in the same sense as "GOD"
was God--in substance and essence GOD;
or was possessed of essential or proper divinity. Thus,
each of these brief but pregnant statements is the
complement of the other, correcting any misapprehensions
which the others might occasion. Was the Word
eternal? It was not the eternity of "the
Father," but of a conscious personal existence
distinct from Him and associated with Him. Was the Word
thus "with God?" It was not the distinctness and
the fellowship of another being, as if there were
more Gods than one, but of One who was Himself
God--in such sense that the absolute unity of
the God head, the great principle of all religion, is only
transferred from the region of shadowy abstraction to the
region of essential life and love. But why all this
definition? Not to give us any abstract information
about certain mysterious distinctions in the Godhead, but
solely to let the reader know who it was that in the
fulness of time "was made flesh." After
each verse, then, the reader must say, "It was He who
is thus, and thus, and thus described, who was made
2. The same, &c.--See what property of the Word the
stress is laid upon--His eternal distinctness, in
unity, from God--the Father (
3. All things, &c.--all things absolutely (as is
Joh 1:10; 1Co 8:6; Col 1:16, 17; but put beyond
question by what follows).
without Him was not any thing--not
made--brought into being.
that was made--This is a denial of the
eternity and non-creation of matter, which
was held by the whole thinking world outside of Judaism
and Christianity: or rather, its proper creation
was never so much as dreamt of save by the children of
4. In Him was life--essentially and
originally, as the previous verses show to be the
meaning. Thus He is the Living Word, or, as He is
1Jo 1:1, 2, "the Word of Life."
the life . . . the light of
men--All that in men which is true light--knowledge,
integrity, intelligent, willing subjection to God, love to
Him and to their fellow creatures, wisdom, purity, holy
joy, rational happiness--all this "light of men"
has its fountain in the essential original "life"
of "the Word" (
1Jo 1:5-7; Ps 36:9).
5. shineth in darkness, &c.--in this dark, fallen
world, or in mankind "sitting in darkness and the
shadow of death," with no ability to find the way
either of truth or of holiness. In this thick darkness,
and consequent intellectual and moral obliquity, "the
light of the Word" shineth--by all the rays whether
of natural or revealed teaching which men (apart from
the Incarnation of the Word) are favored with.
the darkness comprehended it
not--did not take it in, a brief summary of the
effect of all the strivings of this unincarnate Word
throughout this wide world from the beginning, and a hint
of the necessity of His putting on flesh, if any
recovery of men was to be effected (
6-9. The Evangelist here approaches his grand
thesis, so paving his way for the full statement of it in
Joh 1:14, that we may be able to bear the bright light
of it, and take in its length and breadth and depth and
7. through him--John.
8. not that Light--(See on Joh
5:35). What a testimony to John to have to explain that
"he was not that Light!" Yet was he but a
foil to set it off, his night-taper dwindling before the
Dayspring from on high (
9. lighteth every man, &c.--rather, "which, coming
into the world, enlighteneth every man"; or, is
"the Light of the world" (
Joh 9:5). "Coming into the world" is a
superfluous and quite unusual description of "every
man"; but it is of all descriptions of Christ amongst
the most familiar, especially in the writings of this
Joh 12:46; 16:28; 18:37; 1Jo 4:9; 1Ti 1:15, &c.).
10-13. He was in the world, &c.--The language here is
nearly as wonderful as the thought. Observe its compact
simplicity, its sonorousness--"the world"
resounding in each of its three members--and the enigmatic
form in which it is couched, startling the reader and
setting his ingenuity a-working to solve the stupendous
enigma of Christ ignored in His own world. "The
world," in the first two clauses, plainly means the
created world, into which He came,
Joh 1:9; "in it He was," says this
verse. By His Incarnation, He became an inhabitant of
it, and bound up with it. Yet it "was made by
Joh 1:3-5). Here, then, it is merely alluded to, in
contrast partly with His being in it, but still more
with the reception He met with from it. "The world
that knew Him not" (
1Jo 3:1) is of course the intelligent world of mankind.
(See on Joh 1:11,12). Taking the
first two clauses as one statement, we try to apprehend it
by thinking of the infant Christ conceived in the womb and
born in the arms of His own creature, and of the Man Christ
Jesus breathing His own air, treading His own ground,
supported by substances to which He Himself gave being, and
the Creator of the very men whom He came to save. But the
most vivid commentary on this entire verse will be got by
tracing (in His matchless history) Him of whom it speaks
walking amidst all the elements of nature, the diseases of
men and death itself, the secrets of the human heart, and
"the rulers of the darkness of this world" in all
their number, subtlety, and malignity, not only with
absolute ease, as their conscious Lord, but, as we might
say, with full consciousness on their part of the presence
of their Maker, whose will to one and all of them was law.
And this is He of whom it is added, "the world knew
11. his own--"His own" (property or possession),
for the word is in the neuter gender. It means His
own land, city, temple, Messianic rights and
and his own--"His own
(people)"; for now the word is masculine. It
means the Jews, as the "peculiar people." Both
they and their land, with all that this
included, were "HIS OWN," not so much as part of
"the world which was made by Him," but as
"THE HEIR" of the inheritance (
Lu 20:14; see also on
received him not--nationally,
as God's chosen witnesses.
12. But as many--individuals, of the
"disobedient and gainsaying people."
gave he power--The word signifies both
authority and ability, and both are certainly
to become--Mark these words: Jesus is
the Son of God; He is never said to have become such.
the sons--or more simply, "sons
of God," in name and in nature.
believe on his name--a phrase never
used in Scripture of any mere creature, to express the
credit given to human testimony, even of prophets or
apostles, inasmuch it carries with it the idea of
trust proper only towards GOD. In this sense of
supreme faith, as due to Him who "gives those that
believe in Himself power to become sons of
God," it is manifestly used here.
13. Which were born--a sonship therefore not of mere title
and privilege, but of nature, the soul being made
conscious of the vital capacities, perceptions, and
emotions of a child of God, before unknown.
not of blood, &c.--not of superior
human descent, not of human generation at all, not of man
in any manner of way. By this elaborate threefold denial of
the human source of this sonship, immense force is
given to what follows,
but of God--Right royal gift, and He
who confers must be absolutely divine. For who would not
worship Him who can bring him into the family, and evoke
within him the very life, of the sons of God?
14. And the Word, &c.--To raise the reader to the
altitude of this climax were the thirteen foregoing verses
was made flesh--BECAME MAN, in
man's present frail, mortal condition, denoted by the
word "flesh" (
Isa 40:6; 1Pe 1:24). It is directed probably against
the Docetæ, who held that Christ was not
really but only apparently man; against whom this
gentle spirit is vehement in his Epistles (
1Jo 4:3; 2Jo 7, 10, 11), [LUCKE, &c.]. Nor could He
be too much so, for with the verity of the Incarnation all
substantial Christianity vanishes. But now, married to our
nature, henceforth He is as personally conscious of all
that is strictly human as of all that is properly
divine; and our nature is in His Person redeemed and
quickened, ennobled and transfigured.
and dwelt--tabernacled or pitched his
tent; a word peculiar to John, who uses it four times, all
in the sense of a permanent stay (
Re 7:15; 12:12; 13:6; 21:3). For ever wedded to our
"flesh," He has entered this tabernacle to
"go no more out." The allusion is to that
tabernacle where dwelt the Shekinah (see on Mt 23:38, 39), or manifested
"GLORY OF THE LORD," and with reference to
God's permanent dwelling among His people (
Le 26:11; Ps 68:18; 132:13, 14; Eze 37:27). This is put
almost beyond doubt by what immediately follows, "And
we beheld his glory" [LUCKE, MEYER, DE WETTE which
last critic, rising higher than usual, says that thus were
perfected all former partial manifestations of God in an
essentially Personal and historically Human
full of grace and truth--So it should
read: "He dwelt among us full of grace and
truth"; or, in Old Testament phrase, "Mercy and
truth," denoting the whole fruit of God's purposes
of love towards sinners of mankind, which until now existed
only in promise, and the fulfilment at length
of that promise in Christ; in one great word,
"the SURE MERCIES of David" (
Isa 55:3; Ac 13:34; compare
2Sa 23:5). In His Person all that Grace and Truth which
had been floating so long in shadowy forms, and darting
into the souls of the poor and needy its broken beams, took
everlasting possession of human flesh and filled it full.
By this Incarnation of Grace and Truth, the teaching of
thousands of years was at once transcended and beggared,
and the family of God sprang into Manhood.
and we beheld his glory--not by the
eye of sense, which saw in Him only "the
carpenter." His glory was "spiritually
1Co 2:7-15; 2Co 3:18; 4:4, 6; 5:16) --the glory of
surpassing grace, love, tenderness, wisdom, purity,
spirituality; majesty and meekness, richness and poverty,
power and weakness, meeting together in unique contrast;
ever attracting and at times ravishing the
"babes" that followed and forsook all for
the glory as of the only begotten of
the Father--(See on Lu
1:35); not like, but "such as (belongs
to)," such as became or was befitting
the only begotten of the Father [C HRYSOSTOM in LUCKE, C
ALVIN, &c.], according to a well-known use of the word
Joh 1:15. A SAYING OF THE BAPTIST CONFIRMATORY OF THIS.
15. after me--in official manifestation.
before me--in rank and
for he was before me--in
existence; "His goings forth being from of old,
from everlasting" (
Mic 5:2). (Anything lower than this His words cannot
mean); that is, "My Successor is my Superior, for He
was my Predecessor." This enigmatic play upon the
different senses of the words "before" and
"after" was doubtless employed by the Baptist to
arrest attention, and rivet the thought; and the Evangelist
introduces it just to clinch his own statements.
16. of his fulness--of "grace and truth,"
resuming the thread of
grace for grace--that is, grace upon
grace (so all the best interpreters), in successive
communications and larger measures, as each was able to
take it in. Observe, the word "truth" is here
dropped. "Grace" being the chosen New Testament
word for the whole fulness of the new covenant, all that
dwells in Christ for men.
17. For, &c.--The Law elicits the consciousness of sin
and the need of redemption; it only typifies the reality.
The Gospel, on the contrary, actually communicates reality
and power from above (compare
Ro 6:14). Hence Paul terms the Old Testament
"shadow," while he calls the New Testament
Col 2:17) [OLSHAUSEN].
18. No man--"No one," in the widest sense.
hath seen God--by immediate gaze, or
in the bosom of the Father--A
remarkable expression, used only here, presupposing the
Son's conscious existence distinct from the Father, and
expressing His immediate and most endeared access to,
andabsolute acquaintance with, Him.
he--emphatic; As if he should say,
"He and He only hath declared Him," because He
the Jews--that is, the heads of the
nation, the members of the Sanhedrim. In this peculiar
sense our Evangelist seems always to use the term.
20. confessed, &c.--that is, While many were ready to
hail him as the Christ, he neither gave the slightest
ground for such views, nor the least entertainment to them.
21. Elias--in His own proper person.
that prophet--announced in
De 18:15, &c., about whom they seem not to have
been agreed whether he were the same with the Messiah or
25. Why baptizest thou, if not, &c.--Thinking he
disclaimed any special connection with Messiah's
kingdom, they demand his right to gather disciples by
26. there standeth--This must have been spoken after the
baptism of Christ, and possibly just after His temptation
(see on Joh 1:29).
28. Bethabara--Rather, "Bethany" (according to
nearly all the best and most ancient manuscripts); not the
Bethany of Lazarus, but another of the same name, and
distinguished from it as lying "beyond Jordan,"
on the east.
29. seeth Jesus--fresh, probably, from the scene of the
coming unto him--as to congenial
Ac 4:23), and to receive from him His first
and saith--catching a sublime
inspiration at the sight of Him approaching.
the Lamb of God--the one God-ordained,
God-gifted sacrificial offering.
that taketh away--taketh up and
taketh away. The word signifies both, as does the
corresponding Hebrew word. Applied to sin, it means
to be chargeable with the guilt of it (
Ex 28:38; Le 5:1; Eze 18:20), and to bear it
away (as often). In the Levitical victims both ideas
met, as they do in Christ, the people's guilt being
viewed as transferred to them, avenged in
their death, and so borne away by them (
Le 4:15; 16:15, 21, 22; and compare
Isa 53:6-12; 2Co 5:21).
the sin--The singular number
being used to mark the collective burden and
of the world--not of Israel only, for
whom the typical victims were exclusively offered. Wherever
there shall live a sinner throughout the wide world,
sinking under that burden too heavy for him to bear, he
shall find in this "Lamb of God," a shoulder
equal to the weight. The right note was struck at the
first--balm, doubtless, to Christ's own spirit; nor was
ever after, or ever will be, a more glorious utterance.
31-34. knew him not--Living mostly apart, the one at
Nazareth, the other in the Judean desert--to prevent all
appearance of collusion, John only knew that at a definite
time after his own call, his Master would show Himself. As
He drew near for baptism one day, the last of all the
crowd, the spirit of the Baptist heaving under a divine
presentiment that the moment had at length arrived, and an
air of unwonted serenity and dignity, not without traits,
probably, of the family features, appearing in this
Stranger, the Spirit said to him as to Samuel of his
youthful type, "Arise, anoint Him, for this is
1Sa 16:12). But the sign which he was told to
expect was the visible descent of the Spirit upon Him as He
emerged out of the baptismal water. Then, catching
up the voice from heaven, "he saw and bare record that
this is the Son of God."
35. John stood--"was standing," at his accustomed
36. looking--having fixed his eyes, with significant gaze,
as he walked--but not now to
him. To have done this once (see on
Joh 1:29) was humility enough [BENGEL].
Behold, &c.--The repetition of
that wonderful proclamation, in identical terms and without
another word, could only have been meant as a gentle hint
to go after Him--as they did.
Joh 1:37-51. FIRST GATHERING OF DISCIPLES--JOHN ANDREW,
SIMON, PHILIP, NATHANAEL.
38. What seek ye--gentle, winning question, remarkable as
the Redeemer's first public utterance. (See on
where dwellest thou--that is,
"That is a question we cannot answer in a moment; but
had we Thy company for a calm hour in private, gladly
should we open our burden."
39. Come and see--His second utterance, more winning
tenth hour--not ten A.M. (as some),
according to Roman, but four P.M., according to
Jewish reckoning, which John follows. The hour is
mentioned to show why they stayed out the day with
him--because little of it remained.
40. One . . . was Andrew--The other was doubtless
our Evangelist himself. His great sensitiveness is
touchingly shown in his representation of this first
contact with the Lord; the circumstances are present to him
in the minutest details; he still remembers the Very hour.
But "he reports no particulars of those discourses of
the Lord by which he was bound to Him for the whole of His
life; he allows everything personal to retire"
Peter's brother--and the elder of
41. have found the Messias--The previous preparation of
their simple hearts under the Baptist's ministry, made
quick work of this blessed conviction, while others
hesitated till doubt settled into obduracy. So it is
42. brought him to Jesus--Happy brothers that thus do to
beheld him--fixed his eyes on him,
with significant gaze (as
Cephas . . . stone--(See on
43. would go . . . into Galilee--for from His
baptism He had sojourned in Judea (showing that the
calling at the Sea of Galilee [
Mt 4:18] was a subsequent one, see on Lu 5:1).
Follow me--the first express call
given, the former three having come to Him spontaneously.
44. the city of Andrew and Peter--of their birth
probably, for they seem to have lived at Capernaum
46. any good out of Nazareth--remembering Bethlehem,
perhaps, as Messiah's predicted birthplace, and
Nazareth having no express prophetic place at all,
besides being in no repute. The question sprang from mere
dread of mistake in a matter so vital.
Come and see--Noble remedy against
preconceived opinions [B ENGEL]. Philip, though he could
not perhaps solve his difficulty, could show him how to get
rid of it. (See on Joh 6:68).
47. an Israelite indeed . . . no guile--not only
no hypocrite, but with a guileless simplicity not always
found even in God's own people, ready to follow
wherever truth might lead him, saying, Samuel-like,
"Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth" (
48. Whence knowest thou me--conscious that his very heart
had been read, and at this critical moment more than ever
Before Philip called thee--showing He
knew all that passed between Philip and him at a
when . . . under the fig
tree, &c.--where retirement for meditation and prayer
was not uncommon [L IGHTFOOT]. Thither, probably--hearing
that his master's Master had at length appeared, and
heaving with mingled eagerness to behold Him and dread of
deception--he had retired to pour out his guileless heart
for light and guidance, ending with such a prayer as this,
"Show me a token for good!" (See on Lu 2:8). Now he has it, "Thou
guileless one, that fig tree scene, with all its heaving
anxieties, deep pleadings and tremulous hopes--I saw it
all." The first words of Jesus had astonished, but
this quite overpowered and won him.
49. Son of God . . . King of Israel--the one
denoting His person, the other His office. How much loftier
this than anything Philip had said to him! But just as the
earth's vital powers, the longer they are frost-bound,
take the greater spring when at length set free, so souls,
like Nathanael and Thomas (see on Joh
20:28), the outgoings of whose faith are hindered for a
time, take the start of their more easy-going brethren when
loosed and let go.
50, 51. Because I said, &c.--"So quickly
convinced, and on this evidence only?"--an expression
51. Hereafter, &c.--The key to this great saying is
Jacob's vision (
Ge 28:12-22), to which the allusion plainly is. To show
the patriarch that though alone and friendless on earth his
interests were busying all heaven, he was made to see
"heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and
descending upon a" mystic "ladder reaching
from heaven to earth." "By and by," says
Jesus here, "ye shall see this communication between
heaven and earth thrown wide open, and the Son of man
the real Ladder of this intercourse."
Joh 2:1-12. FIRST MIRACLE, WATER MADE WINE--BRIEF VISIT
1. third day--He would take two days to reach Galilee, and
this was the third.
mother there--it being probably some
relative's marriage. John never names her
3. no wine--evidently expecting some display of His glory,
and hinting that now was His time.
4, 5. Woman--no term of disrespect in the language of that
what . . . to do with
thee--that is, "In my Father's business I have to
do with Him only." It was a gentle rebuke for
officious interference, entering a region from which
all creatures were excluded (compare
Ac 4:19, 20).
mine hour, &c.--hinting that He
would do something, but at His own time; and so she
understood it (
6. firkins--about seven and a half gallons in Jewish, or
nine in Attic measure; each of these huge water jars,
therefore, holding some twenty or more gallons, for
washings at such feasts (
7, 8. Fill . . . draw . . .
bear--directing all, but Himself touching nothing, to
prevent all appearance of collusion.
9, 10. well drunk--"drunk abundantly" (as
So 5:1), speaking of the general practice.
10. the good wine . . . until now--thus
testifying, while ignorant of the source of supply, not
only that it was real wine, but better than any at the
11. manifested forth his glory--Nothing in the least like
this is said of the miracles of prophet or apostle, nor
could without manifest blasphemy be said of any mere
creature. Observe, (1) At a marriage Christ made His first
public appearance in any company, and at a marriage He
wrought His first miracle--the noblest sanction that could
be given to that God-given institution. (2) As the miracle
did not make bad good, but good better, so
Christianity only redeems, sanctifies, and ennobles the
beneficent but abused institution of marriage; and
Christ's whole work only turns the water of earth into
the wine of heaven. Thus "this beginning of
miracles" exhibited the character and "manifested
forth the glory" of His entire Mission. (3) As Christ
countenanced our seasons of festivity, so also that
greater fulness which befits such; so far was He
from encouraging that asceticism which has since
been so often put for all religion. (4) The character and
authority ascribed by Romanists to the Virgin is directly
in the teeth of this and other scriptures.
Joh 2:13-25. CHRIST'S FIRST PASSOVER--FIRST
CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE.
14-17. in the temple--not the temple itself, as
Joh 2:19-21, but the temple-court.
sold oxen, &c.--for the
convenience of those who had to offer them in
changers of money--of Roman into
Jewish money, in which the temple dues (see on Mt 17:24) had to be paid.
15. small cords--likely some of the rushes spread for
bedding, and when twisted used to tie up the cattle there
collected. "Not by this slender whip but by divine
majesty was the ejection accomplished, the whip being but a
sign of the scourge of divine anger" [GROTIUS].
poured out . . .
overthrew--thus expressing the mingled indignation and
authority of the impulse.
16. my Father's house--How close the resemblance of
these remarkable words to
Lu 2:49; the same consciousness of intrinsic
relation to the temple--as the seat of His Father's
most august worship, and so the symbol of all that is due
to Him on earth--dictating both speeches. Only, when but a
youth, with no authority, He was simply "a SON
IN His own house"; now He was "a SON OVER His own
Heb 3:6), the proper Representative, and in flesh
"the Heir," of his Father's rights.
house of merchandise--There was
nothing wrong in the merchandise; but to bring it, for
their own and others' convenience, into that most
sacred place, was a high-handed profanation which the eye
of Jesus could not endure.
17. eaten me up--a glorious feature in the predicted
character of the suffering Messiah (
Ps 69:9), and rising high even in some not worthy to
loose the latchet of His shoes. (
Ex 32:19, &c.).
18-22. What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou
doest these things?--Though the act and the
words of Christ, taken together, were sign enough, they
were unconvinced: yet they were awed, and though at
His very next appearance at Jerusalem they "sought to
kill Him" for speaking of "His Father" just
as He did now (
Joh 5:18), they, at this early stage, only ask a sign.
20. Forty and six years--From the eighteenth year of Herod
till then was just forty-six years [JOSEPHUS,
21. temple of his body--in which was enshrined the glory of
the eternal Word. (See on Joh 1:14).
By its resurrection the true Temple of God upon earth was
reared up, of which the stone one was but a shadow; so that
the allusion is not quite exclusively to Himself,
but takes in that Temple of which He is the foundation, and
all believers are the "lively stones." (
1Pe 2:4, 5).
22. believed the scripture--on this subject; that is, what
was meant, which was hid from them till then. Mark (1)
The act by which Christ signalized His first public
appearance in the Temple. Taking "His fan in His
hand, He purges His floor," not thoroughly indeed, but
enough to foreshadow His last act towards that
faithless people--to sweep them out of God's
house. (2) The sign of His authority to do this is the
announcement, at this first outset of His ministry, of that
coming death by their hands, and resurrection by His own,
which were to pave the way for their judicial ejection.
23-25. in the feast day--the foregoing things occurring
probably before the feast began.
many believed--superficially, struck
merely by "the miracles He did." Of these we have
24. did not commit--"entrust," or let Himself
down familiarly to them, as to His genuine disciples.
25. knew what was in man--It is impossible for language
more clearly to assert of Christ what in
Jer 17:9, 10, and elsewhere, is denied of all mere
1, 2. Nicodemus--In this member of the Sanhedrim sincerity
and timidity are seen struggling together.
2. came to Jesus by night--One of those superficial
"believers" mentioned in
Joh 2:23, 24, yet inwardly craving further
satisfaction, Nicodemus comes to Jesus in quest of it, but
comes "by night" (see
Joh 19:38, 39; 12:42); he avows his conviction that He
come from God--an expression never
applied to a merely human messenger, and probably
meaning more here--but only as "a
teacher," and in His miracles he sees a proof
merely that "God is with Him." Thus, while unable
to repress his convictions, he is afraid of committing
himself too far.
3. Except, &c.--This blunt and curt reply was plainly
meant to shake the whole edifice of the man's religion,
in order to lay a deeper and more enduring foundation.
Nicodemus probably thought he had gone a long way, and
expected, perhaps, to be complimented on his candor.
Instead of this, he is virtually told that he has raised a
question which he is not in a capacity to solve, and that
before approaching it, his spiritual vision required to
be rectified by an entire revolution on his inner man.
Had the man been less sincere, this would certainly have
repelled him; but with persons in his mixed state of
mind--to which Jesus was no stranger (
Joh 2:25) --such methods speed better than more honeyed
words and gradual approaches.
a man--not a Jew merely; the
necessity is a universal one.
be born again--or, as it were,
begin life anew in relation to God; his manner of
thinking, feeling, and acting, with reference to spiritual
things, undergoing a fundamental and permanent
cannot see--can have no part in (just
as one is said to "see life," "see
the kingdom of God--whether in its
beginnings here (
Lu 16:16), or its consummation hereafter (
Mt 25:34; Eph 5:5).
4. How, &c.--The figure of the new birth, if it had
been meant only of Gentile proselytes to the Jewish
religion, would have been intelligible enough to Nicodemus,
being quite in keeping with the language of that day; but
that Jews themselves should need a new birth was to
5. of water and of the Spirit--A twofold explanation of the
"new birth," so startling to Nicodemus. To a
Jewish ecclesiastic, so familiar with the symbolical
application of water, in every variety of way and form of
expression, this language was fitted to show that the thing
intended was no other than a thorough spiritual
purification by the operation of the Holy Ghost.
Indeed, element of water and operation of the
Spirit are brought together in a glorious evangelical
prediction of Ezekiel (
Eze 36:25-27), which Nicodemus might have been reminded
of had such spiritualities not been almost lost in the
reigning formalism. Already had the symbol of water been
embodied in an initiatory ordinance, in the baptism of the
Jewish expectants of Messiah by the Baptist, not to speak
of the baptism of Gentile proselytes before that; and in
the Christian Church it was soon to become the great
visible door of entrance into "the kingdom of
God," the reality being the sole work of the Holy
6-8. That which is born, &c.--A great universal
proposition; "That which is begotten carries within
itself the nature of that which begat it"
flesh--Not the mere material body, but
all that comes into the world by birth, the entire
man; yet not humanity simply, but in its corrupted,
depraved condition, in complete subjection to the law of
the fall (
Ro 8:1-9). So that though a man "could enter a
second time into his mother's womb and be born,"
he would be no nearer this "new birth" than
Job 14:4; Ps 51:5).
is spirit--"partakes of and
possesses His spiritual nature."
7. Marvel not, &c.--If a spiritual nature only can see
and enter the kingdom of God; if all we bring into the
world with us be the reverse of spiritual; and if this
spirituality be solely of the Holy Ghost, no wonder a new
birth is indispensable.
Ye must--"Ye, says Jesus,
not we" [BENGEL]. After those universal
propositions, about what "a man" must be,
to "enter the kingdom of God" (
Joh 3:5) --this is remarkable, showing that our Lord
meant to hold Himself forth as "separate from
8. The wind, &c.--Breath and spirit (one
word both in Hebrew and Greek) are constantly
brought together in Scripture as analogous (
Job 27:3; 33:4; Eze 37:9-14).
canst not tell, &c.--The laws
which govern the motion of the winds are even yet
but partially discovered; but the risings, failings, and
change in direction many times in a day, of those gentle
breezes here referred to, will probably ever be a
mystery to us: So of the operation of the Holy Ghost in the
9, 10. How, &c.--Though the subject still confounds
Nicodemus, the necessity and possibility of the new birth
is no longer the point with him, but the nature of it and
how it is brought about [LUTHARDT]. "From this moment
Nicodemus says nothing more, but has sunk unto a
disciple who has found his true teacher. Therefore
the Saviour now graciously advances in His communications
of truth, and once more solemnly brings to the mind of this
teacher in Israel, now become a learner, his own not
guiltless ignorance, that He may then proceed to
utter, out of the fulness of His divine knowledge, such
farther testimonies both of earthly and heavenly things as
his docile scholar may to his own profit receive"
10. master--"teacher." The question clearly
implies that the doctrine of regeneration is so far
disclosed in the Old Testament that Nicodemus was culpable
in being ignorant of it. Nor is it merely as something
that should be experienced under the Gospel that the
Old Testament holds it forth--as many distinguished critics
allege, denying that there was any such thing as
regeneration before Christ. For our Lord's proposition
is universal, that no fallen man is or can be spiritual
without a regenerating operation of the Holy Ghost, and the
necessity of a spiritual obedience under whatever
name, in opposition to mere mechanical services, is
proclaimed throughout all the Old Testament.
11-13. We speak that we know, and . . . have
seen--that is, by absolute knowledge and
immediate vision of God, which "the only-begotten
Son in the bosom of the Father" claims as exclusively
His own (
Joh 1:18). The "we" and "our" are
here used, though Himself only is intended, in emphatic
contrast, probably, with the opening words of Nicodemus,
"Rabbi, we know.", &c.
ye receive not, &c.--referring to
the class to which Nicodemus belonged, but from
which he was beginning to be separated in spirit.
12. earthly things--such as regeneration, the gate
of entrance to the kingdom of God on earth, and
which Nicodemus should have understood better, as a truth
even of that more earthly economy to which he
heavenly things--the things of the new
and more heavenly evangelical economy, only to be fully
understood after the effusion of the Spirit from heaven
through the exalted Saviour.
13. no man hath ascended, &c.--There is something
paradoxical in this language--"No one has gone up but
He that came down, even He who is at once both up and
down." Doubtless it was intended to startle and
constrain His auditor to think that there must be
mysterious elements in His Person. The old Socinians, to
subvert the doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ, seized
upon this passage as teaching that the man Jesus was
secretly caught up to heaven to receive His instructions,
and then "came down from heaven" to deliver them.
But the sense manifestly is this: "The perfect
knowledge of God is not obtained by any man's going up
from earth to heaven to receive it--no man hath so
ascended--but He whose proper habitation, in His
essential and eternal nature, is heaven, hath, by taking
human flesh, descended as the Son of man to disclose the
Father, whom He knows by immediate gaze alike in the flesh
as before He assumed it, being essentially and unchangeably
'in the bosom of the Father'" (
14-16. And as Moses, &c.--Here now we have the
"heavenly things," as before the
"earthly," but under a veil, for the reason
Joh 3:12. The crucifixion of Messiah is twice after
this veiled under the same lively
Joh 8:28; 12:32, 33. Here it is still further
veiled--though to us who know what it means, rendered
vastly more instructive--by reference to the brazen
serpent. The venom of the fiery serpents, shooting through
the veins of the rebellious Israelites, was spreading death
through the camp--lively emblem of the perishing condition
of men by reason of sin. In both cases the remedy was
divinely provided. In both the way of cure strikingly
resembled that of the disease. Stung by serpents, by a
serpent they are healed. By "fiery serpents"
bitten--serpents, probably, with skin spotted fiery red
[KURTZ]--the instrument of cure is a serpent of brass or
copper, having at a distance the same appearance. So
in redemption, as by man came death, by Man also comes
life--Man, too, "in the likeness of sinful
Ro 8:3), differing in nothing outward and
apparent from those who, pervaded by the poison of the
serpent, were ready to perish. But as the uplifted serpent
had none of the venom of which the serpent-bitten people
were dying, so while the whole human family were perishing
of the deadly wound inflicted on it by the old serpent,
"the Second Man," who arose over humanity with
healing in His wings, was without spot or wrinkle, or any
such thing. In both cases the remedy is conspicuously
displayed; in the one case on a pole, in the other on
the cross, to "draw all men unto Him" (
Joh 12:32). In both cases it is by directing the eye
to the uplifted Remedy that the cure is effected; in
the one case the bodily eye, in the other the gaze of the
soul by "believing in Him," as in that glorious
ancient proclamation--"Look unto me and be ye
saved, all the ends of the earth," &c. (
Isa 45:22). Both methods are stumbling to human reason.
What, to any thinking Israelite, could seem more unlikely
than that a deadly poison should be dried up in his body by
simply looking on a reptile of brass? Such a
stumbling-block to the Jews and to the Greeks foolishness
was faith in the crucified Nazarene as a way of deliverance
from eternal perdition. Yet was the warrant in both cases
to expect a cure equally rational and well grounded. As the
serpent was God's ordinance for the cure of
every bitten Israelite, so is Christ for the salvation of
every perishing sinner--the one however a purely
arbitrary ordinance, the other divinely adapted
to man's complicated maladies. In both cases the
efficacy is the same. As one simple look at the serpent,
however distant and however weak, brought an instantaneous
cure, even so, real faith in the Lord Jesus, however
tremulous, however distant--be it but real
faith--brings certain and instant healing to the perishing
soul. In a word, the consequences of disobedience are the
same in both. Doubtless many bitten Israelites, galling as
their case was, would reason rather than
obey, would speculate on the absurdity of
expecting the bite of a living serpent to be cured by
looking at a piece of dead metal in the shape of
one--speculate thus till they died. Alas! is not
salvation by a crucified Redeemer subjected to like
treatment? Has the offense of the cross" yet ceased?
16. For God so loved, &c.--What proclamation of the
Gospel has been so oft on the lips of missionaries and
preachers in every age since it was first uttered? What has
sent such thrilling sensations through millions of mankind?
What has been honored to bring such multitudes to the feet
of Christ? What to kindle in the cold and selfish breasts
of mortals the fires of self-sacrificing love to mankind,
as these words of transparent simplicity, yet overpowering
majesty? The picture embraces several distinct
compartments: "THE WORLD"--in its widest
sense--ready "to perish"; the
immense "LOVE OF GOD" to that perishing
world, measurable only, and conceivable only, by the
gift which it drew forth from Him; THE GIFT
itself--"He so loved the world that He
gave His only begotten Son," or, in the language
of Paul, "spared not His own Son" (
Ro 8:32), or in that addressed to Abraham when ready to
offer Isaac on the altar, "withheld not His
Son, His only Son, whom He loved" (
Ge 22:16); the FRUIT of this stupendous gift--not only
deliverance from impending
"perdition," but the bestowal of
everlasting life; the MODE in which all takes
effect--by "believing" on the Son. How
would Nicodemus' narrow Judaism become invisible in the
blaze of this Sun of righteousness seen rising on "the
world" with healing in His wings! (
17-21. not to condemn, &c.--A statement of vast
importance. Though "condemnation" is to many the
issue of Christ's mission (
Joh 3:19), it is not the object of His mission,
which is purely a saving one.
18. is not condemned--Having, immediately on his believing,
"passed from death unto life" (
condemned already--Rejecting the one
way of deliverance from that "condemnation" which
God gave His Son to remove, and so wilfully
19. this is the condemnation, &c.--emphatically so,
revealing the condemnation already existing, and
sealing up under it those who will not be delivered
light is come into the world--in the
Person of Him to whom Nicodemus was listening.
loved darkness, &c.--This can only
be known by the deliberate rejection of Christ, but that
does fearfully reveal it.
20. reproved--by detection.
21. doeth truth--whose only object in life is to be and do
what will bear the light. Therefore he loves and
"comes to the light," that all he is and does,
being thus thoroughly tested, may be seen to have nothing
in it but what is divinely wrought and divinely approved.
This is the "Israelite, indeed, in whom is no
Joh 3:22-36. JESUS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF THE
BAPTIST--HIS NOBLE TESTIMONY TO HIS MASTER.
22-24. land of Judea--the rural parts of that province, the
foregoing conversation being held in the capital.
baptized--in the sense explained in
24. John not yet cast into prison--Hence it is plain that
our Lord's ministry did not commence with the
imprisonment of John, though, but for this, we should have
drawn that inference from
Mt 4:12 and Mark's (
Mr 1:14) express statement.
25, 26. between some of--rather, "on the part
and the Jews--rather (according to the
best manuscripts), "and a Jew,"
about purifying--that is, baptizing,
the symbolical meaning of washing with water being put (as
Joh 2:6) for the act itself. As John and Jesus were the
only teachers who baptized Jews, discussions might easily
arise between the Baptist's disciples and such Jews as
declined to submit to that rite.
26. Rabbi, &c.--"Master, this man tells us that He
to whom thou barest such generous witness beyond Jordan is
requiting thy generosity by drawing all the people away to
Himself. At this rate, thou shalt soon have no disciples at
all." The reply to this is one of the noblest and most
affecting utterances that ever came from the lips of man.
27-30. A man, &c.--"I do my heaven-prescribed
work, and that is enough for me. Would you have me mount
into my Master's place? Said I not unto you, I am not
the Christ? The Bride is not mine, why should the people
stay with me?? Mine it is to point the burdened to the Lamb
of God that taketh away the sin of the world, to tell them
there is Balm in Gilead, and a Physician there. And shall I
grudge to see them, in obedience to the call, flying as a
cloud, and as doves to their windows? Whose is the Bride
but the Bridegroom's? Enough for me to be the
Bridegroom's friend, sent by Him to negotiate
the match, privileged to bring together the Saviour and
those He is come to seek and to save, and rejoicing with
joy unspeakable if I may but 'stand and hear the
Bridegroom's voice,' witnessing the blessed
espousals. Say ye, then, they go from me to Him? Ye bring
me glad tidings of great joy. He must increase, but I must
decrease; this, my joy, therefore is fulfilled."
A man can receive, &c.--assume
nothing, that is, lawfully and with any success; that is,
Every man has his work and sphere appointed him from above,
Even Christ Himself came under this law (
31-34. He that, &c.--Here is the reason why He must
increase while all human teachers must decrease. The Master
"cometh from above"--descending from His
proper element, the region of those "heavenly
things" which He came to reveal, and so, although
mingling with men and things on the earth, is not "of
the earth," either in Person or Word. The servants, on
the contrary, springing of earth, are of the earth, and
their testimony, even though divine in authority, partakes
necessarily of their own earthiness. (So strongly did the
Baptist feel this contrast that the last clause just
repeats the first). It is impossible for a sharper line of
distinction to be drawn between Christ and all human
teachers, even when divinely commissioned and speaking by
the power of the Holy Ghost. And who does not perceive it?
The words of prophets and apostles are undeniable and most
precious truth; but in the words of Christ we hear a voice
as from the excellent Glory, the Eternal Word making
Himself heard in our own flesh.
32. what he hath seen and heard--(See on Joh 3:11 and Joh
and no man receiveth,
&c.--John's disciples had said, "All
come to Him" (
Joh 3:26). The Baptist here virtually says, Would it
were so, but alas! they are next to "none"
[BENGEL]. They were far readier to receive himself, and
obliged him to say, I am not the Christ, and he seems
pained at this.
33. hath set to His seal, &c.--gives glory to God whose
words Christ speaks, not as prophets and apostles by a
partial communication of the Spirit to them.
34. for God giveth not the Spirit by measure--Here, again,
the sharpest conceivable line of distinction is drawn
between Christ and all human-inspired teachers: "They
have the Spirit in a limited degree; but God giveth
not [to Him] the Spirit by measure." It means
the entire fulness of divine life and divine power. The
present tense "giveth," very aptly points
out the permanent communication of the Spirit by the Father
to the Son, so that a constant flow and reflow of living
power is to be understood (Compare
Joh 1:15) [OLSHAUSEN].
35, 36. The Father loveth, &c.--See on Mt 11:27, where we have the
"delivering over of all things into the hands
of the Son," while here we have the deep spring of
that august act in the Father's ineffable "love
of the Son."
36. hath everlasting life--already has it. (See on Joh 3:18 and Joh
shall not see life--The contrast here
is striking: The one has already a life that will endure
for ever--the other not only has it not now, but shall
never have it--never see it.
abideth on him--It was on Him before,
and not being removed in the only possible way, by
"believing on the Son," it necessarily
remaineth on him! Note.--How flatly does this
contradict the teaching of many in our day, that there
neither was, nor is, anything in God against sinners
which needed to be removed by Christ, but only in
men against God!
Joh 4:1-42. CHRIST AND THE WOMAN OF SAMARIA--THE
SAMARITANS OF SYCHAR.
1-4. the Lord knew--not by report, but in the sense of
Joh 2:25, for which reason He is here styled "the
2. Jesus baptized not--John being a servant baptized with
his own hand; Christ as the Master, "baptizing with
the Holy Ghost," administered the outward symbol only
through His disciples.
3. left Judea--to avoid persecution, which at that early
stage would have marred His work.
departed into Galilee--by which time
John had been cast into prison (
4. must needs go through Samaria--for a geographical
reason, no doubt, as it lay straight in his way, but
certainly not without a higher design.
5. cometh . . . to--that is, as far as: for He
remained at some distance from it.
Sychar--the "Shechem" of the
Old Testament, about thirty-four miles from Jerusalem,
afterwards called "Neapolis," and now
6-8. wearied . . . sat thus--that is, "as
you might fancy a weary man would"; an instance of the
graphic style of St. John [WEBSTER and WILKINSON]. In fact,
this is perhaps the most human of all the scenes of
our Lord's earthly history. We seem to be beside Him,
overhearing all that is here recorded, nor could any
painting of the scene on canvas, however perfect, do other
than lower the conception which this exquisite narrative
conveys to the devout and intelligent reader. But with all
that is human, how much also of the divine
have we here, both blended in one glorious manifestation of
the majesty, grace, pity, patience with which "the
Lord" imparts light and life to this unlikeliest of
strangers, standing midway between Jews and heathens.
the sixth hour--noonday,
reckoning from six A.M. From
So 1:7 we know, as from other sources, that the very
flocks "rested at noon." But Jesus, whose maxim
was, "I must work the works of Him that sent Me while
it is day" (
Joh 9:4), seems to have denied Himself that repose, at
least on this occasion, probably that He might reach this
well when He knew the woman would be there. Once there,
however, He accepts . . . the grateful ease of a
seat on the patriarchal stone. But what music is that which
I hear from His lips, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor
and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (
7. Give me to drink--for the heat of a noonday sun had
parched His lips. But "in the last, that great day of
the feast," Jesus stood and cried, saying, "If
any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink"
9-12. How is it that thou--not altogether refusing, yet
wondering at so unusual a request from a Jew, as His dress
and dialect would at once discover Him to be, to a
for, &c.--It is this national
antipathy that gives point to the parable of the good
Lu 10:30-37), and the thankfulness of the Samaritan
Lu 17:16, 18).
10. If thou knewest, &c.--that is, "In Me thou
seest only a petitioner to thee but if thou knewest who
that Petitioner is, and the Gift that God is giving to men,
thou wouldst have changed places with Him, gladly suing of
Him living water--nor shouldst thou have sued in vain"
(gently reflecting on her for not immediately meeting His
12. Art thou greater, &c.--already perceiving in this
Stranger a claim to some mysterious greatness.
our father Jacob--for when it went
well with the Jews, they claimed kindred with them, as
being descended from Joseph; but when misfortunes befell
the Jews, they disowned all connection with them [JOSEPHUS,
13, 14. thirst again . . . never thirst,
&c.--The contrast here is fundamental and all
comprehensive. "This water" plainly means
"this natural water and all satisfactions of a like
earthly and perishable nature." Coming to us
from without, and reaching only the superficial
parts of our nature, they are soon spent, and need to be
anew supplied as much as if we had never experienced them
before, while the deeper wants of our being are not reached
by them at all; whereas the "water" that Christ
gives--spiritual life--is struck out of the very
depths of our being, making the soul not a cistern,
for holding water poured into it from
without, but a fountain (the word had been
better so rendered, to distinguish it from the word
rendered "well" in
Joh 4:11), springing, gushing, bubbling up and flowing
forth within us, ever fresh, ever living. The
indwelling of the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of Christ is
the secret of this life with all its enduring energies and
satisfactions, as is expressly said (
Joh 7:37-39). "Never thirsting," then, means
simply that such souls have the supplies at
into everlasting life--carrying the
thoughts up from the eternal freshness and vitality of
these waters to the great ocean in which they have their
confluence. "Thither may I arrive!" [BENGEL].
15-18. give me this water, &c.--This is not
obtuseness--that is giving way--it expresses a wondering
desire after she scarce knew what from this mysterious
16. call thy husband--now proceeding to arouse her
slumbering conscience by laying bare the guilty life she
was leading, and by the minute details which that life
furnished, not only bringing her sin vividly up before her,
but preparing her to receive in His true character that
wonderful Stranger to whom her whole life, in its minutest
particulars, evidently lay open.
19, 20. Sir, I perceive, &c.--Seeing herself all
revealed, does she now break down and ask what hopes there
might be for one so guilty? Nay, her convictions have not
reached that point yet. She ingeniously shifts the subject
from a personal to a public question. It is not,
"Alas, what a wicked life am I leading!" but
"Lo, what a wonderful prophet I got into conversation
with! He will be able to settle that interminable dispute
between us and the Jews. Sir, you must know all about such
matters--our fathers hold to this mountain here,"
pointing to Gerizim in Samaria, "as the
divinely consecrated place of worship, but ye Jews say that
Jerusalem is the proper place--which of us is
right?" How slowly does the human heart submit to
thorough humiliation! (Compare the prodigal; see
on Lu 15:15). Doubtless our
Lord saw through the fetch; but does He say, "That
question is not the point just now, but have you been
living in the way described, yea or nay? Till this is
disposed of I cannot be drawn into theological
controversies." The Prince of preachers takes another
method: He humors the poor woman, letting her take her own
way, allowing her to lead while He follows--but thus only
the more effectually gaining His object. He answers her
question, pours light into her mind on the
spirituality of all true worship, as of its glorious
Object, and so brings her insensibly to the point at which
He could disclose to her wondering mind whom she was all
the while speaking to.
21-24. Woman, &c.--Here are three weighty pieces of
information: (1) The point raised will very soon cease to
be of any moment, for a total change of dispensation is
about to come over the Church. (2) The Samaritans are
wrong, not only as to the place, but the whole
grounds and nature of their worship, while in
all these respects the truth lies with the Jews. (3) As God
is a Spirit, so He both invites and
demands a spiritual worship, and already all is
in preparation for a spiritual economy, more in
harmony with the true nature of acceptable service than the
ceremonial worship by consecrated persons, place,
and times, which God for a time has seen meet to
keep up till fulness of the time should come.
neither in this mountain nor yet at
Jerusalem--that is, exclusively (
Mal 1:11; 1Ti 2:8).
worship the Father--She had talked
simply of "worship"; our Lord brings up before
her the great OBJECT of all acceptable worship--"THE
22. Ye worship ye know not what--without any revealed
authority, and so very much in the dark. In this sense,
the Jews knew what they were about. But the most
glorious thing here is the reason assigned,
for salvation is of the
Jews--intimating to her that Salvation was not a
thing left to be reached by any one who might vaguely
desire it of a God of mercy, but something that had been
revealed, prepared, deposited with a particular
people, and must be sought in connection with, and
as issuing from them; and that people, "the
23. hour cometh, and now is--evidently meaning her to
understand that this new economy was in some sense being
set up while He was talking to her, a sense which would in
a few minutes so far appear, when He told her plainly He
was the Christ.
25, 26. I know Messias cometh . . . when He is
come, &c.--If we take our Lord's immediate
disclosure of Himself, in answer to this, as the proper key
to its meaning to His ear, we can hardly doubt that
the woman was already all but prepared for even this
startling announcement, which indeed she seems (from
Joh 4:29) to have already begun to suspect by His
revealing her to herself. Thus quickly, under so matchless
a Teacher, was she brought up from her sunken condition to
a frame of mind and heart capable of the noblest
tell us all things--an expectation
founded probably on
26. I that speak . . . am he--He scarce ever said
anything like this to His own people, the Jews. He had
magnified them to the woman, and yet to themselves He is to
the last far more reserved than to her--proving
rather than plainly telling them He was the Christ.
But what would not have been safe among them was
safe enough with her, whose simplicity at this stage
of the conversation appears from the sequel to have become
perfect. What now will the woman say? We listen, the scene
has changed, a new party arrives, the disciples have been
to Sychar, at some distance, to buy bread, and on their
return are astonished at the company their Lord has been
holding in their absence.
27. marvelled that he talked with the woman--It never
probably occurred to them to marvel that He talked with
themselves; yet in His eye, as the sequel shows, He was
quite as nobly employed. How poor, if not false, are many
of our most plausible estimates!
no man said . . . What?
. . . Why?--awed by the spectacle, and thinking
there must be something under it.
28-30. left her water-pot--How exquisitely natural! The
presence of strangers made her feel that it was time for
her to withdraw, and He who knew what was in her heart, and
what she was going to the city to do, let her go without
exchanging a word with her in the hearing of others. Their
interview was too sacred, and the effect on the woman too
overpowering (not to speak of His own deep emotion) to
allow of its being continued. But this one artless
touch--that she "left her water-pot"--speaks
volumes. The living water was already beginning to spring
up within her; she found that man doth not live by bread
nor by water only, and that there was a water of wondrous
virtue that raised people above meat and drink, and the
vessels that held them, and all human things. In short, she
was transported, forgot everything but One, and her heart
running over with the tale she had to tell, she hastens
home and pours it out.
29. is not this the Christ--The form of the question
(in the Greek) is a distant, modest way of only half
insinuating what it seemed hardly fitting for her to
affirm; nor does she refer to what He said of
Himself, but solely to His disclosure to her of the
particulars of her own life.
30. Then they went out, &c.--How different from the
Jews! and richly was their openness to conviction rewarded.
31-38. meantime--that is, while the woman was away.
Master, eat--Fatigue and
thirst we saw He felt; here is revealed another of our
common infirmities to which the Lord was
32. meat ye know not of--What spirituality of mind! "I
have been eating all the while, and such food as ye
dream not of." What can that be? they ask each other;
have any supplies been brought Him in our absence? He knows
what they are saying though He hears it not.
34. My meat is, &c.--"A Servant here to fulfil a
prescribed work, to do and to finish, that is
'meat' to Me; and of this, while you were away, I
have had My fill." And of what does He speak thus? Of
the condescension, pity, patience, wisdom He had been
laying out upon one soul--a very humble woman, and
in some respects repulsive too! But He had gained her, and
through her was going to gain more, and lay perhaps the
foundations of a great work in the country of Samaria; and
this filled His whole soul and raised Him above the sense
of natural hunger (
35. yet four months, and then harvest--that is, "In
current speech, ye say thus at this season; but lift up
your eyes and look upon those fields in the light of
another husbandry, for lo! in that sense, they
are even now white to harvest, ready for the sickle."
The simple beauty of this language is only surpassed by the
glow of holy emotion in the Redeemer's own soul which
it expresses. It refers to the ripeness of these
Sycharites for accession to Him, and the joy of this great
Lord of the reapers over the anticipated ingathering. Oh,
could we but so, "lift up our eyes and
look" upon many fields abroad and at home, which to
dull sense appear unpromising, as He beheld those of
Samaria, what movements, as yet scarce in embryo, and
accessions to Christ, as yet seemingly far distant, might
we not discern as quite near at hand, and thus, amidst
difficulties and discouragements too much for nature to
sustain, be cheered--as our Lord Himself was in
circumstances far more overwhelming--with "songs in
36. he that reapeth, &c.--As our Lord could not mean
that the reaper only, and not the sower, received
"wages," in the sense of personal reward
for his work, the "wages" here can be no other
than the joy of having such a harvest to gather in--the joy
of "gathering fruit unto life eternal."
rejoice together--The blessed issue of
the whole ingathering is the interest alike of the sower as
of the reaper; it is no more the fruit of the last
operation than of the first; and just as there can be no
reaping without previous sowing, so have those servants of
Christ, to whom is assigned the pleasant task of merely
reaping the spiritual harvest, no work to do, and no joy to
taste, that has not been prepared to their hand by the
toilsome and often thankless work of their predecessors in
the field. The joy, therefore, of the great
harvest festivity will be the common joy of all who have
taken any part in the work from the first operation to the
De 16:11, 14; Ps 126:6; Isa 9:3). What encouragement is
here for those "fishers of men" who "have
toiled all the night" of their official life, and, to
human appearance, "have taken nothing!"
38. I sent you, &c.--The I is emphatic--I, the
Lord of the whole harvest: "sent you," points to
their past appointment to the apostleship, though it
has reference only to their future discharge of it,
for they had nothing to do with the present ingathering of
ye bestowed no labour--meaning that
much of their future success would arise from the
preparation already made for them. (See on Joh 4:42).
others laboured--Referring to the Old
Testament laborers, the Baptist, and by implication
Himself, though He studiously keeps this in the background,
that the line of distinction between Himself and all His
servants might not be lost sight of. "Christ
represents Himself as the Husbandman [rather the Lord of
the laborers], who has the direction both of the sowing and
of the harvest, who commissions all the
agents--those of the Old Testament as well as of the
New--and therefore does not stand on a level with either
the sowers or the reapers" [OLSHAUSEN].
39-42. many . . . believed, &c.--The truth of
Joh 4:35 begins to appear. These Samaritans were the
foundation of the Church afterwards built up there. No
miracle appears to have been wrought there (but
unparalleled supernatural knowledge displayed): "we
have heard Him ourselves" (
Joh 4:42) sufficed to raise their faith to a point
never attained by the Jews, and hardly as yet by the
disciples--that He was "the Saviour of the
world" [ALFORD]. "This incident is further
remarkable as a rare instance of the Lord's ministry
producing an awakening on a large scale"
40. abode two days--Two precious days, surely, to the
Redeemer Himself! Unsought, He had come to His own, yet His
own received Him not: now those who were not His own had
come to Him, been won by Him, and invited Him to their town
that others might share with them in the benefit of His
wonderful ministry. Here, then, would He solace His already
wounded spirit and have in this outfield village triumph of
His grace, a sublime foretaste of the inbringing of the
whole Gentile world into the Church.
Joh 4:43-54. SECOND GALILEAN MIRACLE--HEALING OF THE
43, 44. after two days--literally, the two days of His stay
44. For Jesus testified, &c.--This verse had occasioned
much discussion. For it seems strange, if "His own
country" here means Nazareth, which was in
Galilee, that it should be said He came to Galilee
because in one of its towns He expected no good
reception. But all will be simple and natural if we fill up
the statement thus: "He went into the region of
Galilee, but not, as might have been expected, to that part
of it called 'His own country,' Nazareth (see
Mr 6:4; Lu 4:24), for He acted on the maxim
which He oft repeated, that 'a prophet,'"
45. received--welcomed Him.
having seen . . . at the
feast--proud, perhaps, of their Countryman's wonderful
works at Jerusalem, and possibly won by this circumstance
to regard His claims as at least worthy of respectful
investigation. Even this our Lord did not despise, for
saving conversion often begins in less than this (so
for they also went--that is, it was
their practice to go up to the feast.
46, 47. nobleman--courtier, king's servant, or one
connected with a royal household; such as Chuza (
Lu 8:3), or Manaen (
heard that Jesus was come out of
Judea--"where he had doubtless seen or heard what
things Jesus had done at Jerusalem" (
Joh 4:45), [BENGEL].
come down--for Capernaum was down on
the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.
48-54. Except ye see signs, &c.--He did believe,
both as his coming and his urgent entreaty show; but how
imperfectly we shall see; and our Lord would deepen his
faith by such a blunt and seemingly rough answer as He made
49. come down ere my child die--"While we talk, the
case is at its crisis, and if Thou come not instantly, all
is over." This was faith, but partial, and our Lord
would perfect it. The man cannot believe the cure could be
wrought without the Physician coming to the patient--the
thought of such a thing evidently never occurred to him.
But Jesus will in a moment bring him up to this.
50. Go thy way; thy son liveth--Both effects
instantaneously followed:--"The man believed the
word," and the cure, shooting quicker than lightning
from Cana to Capernaum, was felt by the dying youth. In
token of faith, the father takes his leave of Christ--in
the circumstances this evidenced full faith. The servants
hasten to convey the joyful tidings to the anxious parents,
whose faith now only wants one confirmation.
"When began he to amend? . . .
Yesterday, at the seventh hour, the fever left
him"--the very hour in which was uttered that great
word, "Thy son liveth!" So "himself believed
and his whole house." He had believed before
this, first very imperfectly; then with assured confidence
of Christ's word; but now with a faith crowned by
"sight." And the wave rolled from the head to the
members of his household. "To-day is salvation come to
this house" (
Lu 19:9); and no mean house this!
second miracle Jesus did--that is, in
Cana; done "after He came out of Judea," as the
Joh 5:1-47. THE IMPOTENT MAN HEALED--DISCOURSE
OCCASIONED BY THE PERSECUTION ARISING THEREUPON.
1. a feast of the Jews--What feast? No question has
more divided the Harmonists of the Gospels, and the
duration of our Lord's ministry may be said to hinge on
it. For if, as the majority have thought (until of late
years) it was a Passover, His ministry lasted three
and a half years; if not, probably a year less. Those who
are dissatisfied with the Passover-view all differ among
themselves what other feast it was, and some of the most
acute think there are no grounds for deciding. In our
judgment the evidence is in favor of its being a
Passover, but the reasons cannot be stated here.
2, 3. sheep market--The supplement should be (as in
Margin) "sheep [gate]," mentioned in
Ne 3:1, 32.
Bethesda--that is, "house (place)
of mercy," from the cures wrought there.
five porches--for shelter to the
4. an angel, &c.--This miracle differed in two points
from all other miracles recorded in Scripture: (1) It was
not one, but a succession of miracles periodically wrought:
(2) As it was only wrought "when the waters were
troubled," so only upon one patient at a time, and
that the patient "who first stepped in after the
troubling of the waters." But this only the more
undeniably fixed its miraculous character. We have heard of
many waters having a medicinal virtue; but what water was
ever known to cure instantaneously a single disease?
And who ever heard of any water curing all, even the most
diverse diseases--"blind, halt, withered"--alike?
Above all, who ever heard of such a thing being done
"only at a certain season," and most singularly
of all, doing it only to the first person who stepped in
after the moving of the waters? Any of these
peculiarities--much more all taken together--must have
proclaimed the supernatural character of the cures wrought.
(If the text here be genuine, there can be no doubt of the
miracle, as there were multitudes living when this Gospel
was published who, from their own knowledge of Jerusalem,
could have exposed the falsehood of the Evangelist, if no
such cure had been known there. The want of
Joh 5:4 and part of
Joh 5:3 in some good manuscripts, and the use of some
unusual words in the passage, are more easily accounted for
than the evidence in their favor if they were not
originally in the text. Indeed
Joh 5:7 is unintelligible without
Joh 5:4. The internal evidence brought against
it is merely the unlikelihood of such a miracle--a
principle which will carry us a great deal farther if we
allow it to weigh against positive evidence).
5-9. thirty and eight years--but not all that time at the
pool. This was probably the most pitiable of all the cases,
and therefore selected.
6. saw him lie, and knew, &c.--As He doubtless visited
the spot just to perform this cure, so He knows where to
find His patient, and the whole previous history of his
Wilt thou be made whole?--Could anyone
doubt that a sick man would like to be made whole, or that
the patients came thither, and this man had returned again
and again, just in hope of a cure? But our Lord asked the
question. (1) To fasten attention upon Himself; (2) By
making him detail his case to deepen in him the feeling of
entire helplessness; (3) By so singular a question to beget
in his desponding heart the hope of a cure. (Compare
7. Sir, I have no man, &c.--Instead of saying he
wished to be cured, he just tells with piteous simplicity
how fruitless had been all his efforts to obtain it, and
how helpless and all but hopeless he was. Yet
not quite. For here he is at the pool, waiting on. It
seemed of no use; nay, only tantalizing,
while I am coming, another steppeth
down before me--the fruit was snatched from his lips. Yet
he will not go away. He may get nothing by staying, he may
drop into his grave ere he get into the pool; but by going
from the appointed, divine way of healing, he can get
nothing. Wait therefore he will, wait he does, and when
Christ comes to heal him, lo! he is waiting his turn.
What an attitude for a sinner at Mercy's gate! The
man's hopes seemed low enough ere Christ came to him.
He might have said, just before "Jesus passed by that
way," "This is no use; I shall never get in; let
me die at home." Then all had been lost. But he
held on, and his perseverance was rewarded with a
glorious cure. Probably some rays of hope darted into his
heart as he told his tale before those Eyes whose glance
measured his whole case. But the word of command
consummates his preparation to receive the cure, and
instantaneously works it.
8. Rise, take up thy bed, &c.--"Immediately"
he did so. "He spake and it was
done." The slinging of his portable couch over his
shoulders was designed to show the perfection of the cure.
9. the same day was the sabbath--Beyond all doubt this was
intentional, as in so many other healings, in order that
when opposition arose on this account men might be
compelled to listen to His claims and His teaching.
10-16. The Jews--that is, those in authority. (See
on Joh 1:19.)
it is not lawful to carry thy bed--a
glorious testimony to the cure, as instantaneous and
complete, from the lips of the most prejudiced! (And
what a contrast does it, as all our Lord's miracles,
present to the bungling miracles of the Church of Rome!) In
ordinary circumstances, the rulers had the law on
their side (
Ne 13:15; Jer 17:21). But when the man referred them to
"Him that had made him whole" (
Joh 5:11) as his authority, the argument was
resistless. Yet they ingeniously parried the thrust, asking
him, not who had "made him whole"--that would
have condemned themselves and defeated their purpose--but
who had bidden him "take up his bed and walk," in
other words, who had dared to order a breach of the
sabbath? It is time we were looking after Him--thus hoping
to shake the man's faith in his Healer.
13. he that was healed wist not, &c.--That some one,
with unparalleled generosity, tenderness and power, had
done it, the man knew well enough: but as he had never
heard of Him before, so he disappeared too quickly for any
conveyed himself away--slipped out of
the crowd that had gathered, to avoid both hasty popularity
and precipitate hatred (
14. findeth him in the temple--saying, perhaps, "I
will go into Thy house with burnt offerings, I will pay my
vows which my lips have uttered and my mouth hath spoken
when I was in trouble" (
Ps 66:13, 14). Jesus, there Himself for His own ends,
"findeth him there"--not all accidentally,
sin no more, &c.--a glimpse this
of the reckless life he had probably led before his
thirty-eight years' infirmity had come upon him, and
which not improbably had brought on, in the just judgment
of God, his chronic complaint. Fearful illustration this of
"the severity of God," but glorious manifestation
of our Lord's insight into "what was in man."
15. The man departed, and told, &c.--little thinking
how unwelcome his grateful and eager testimony would be.
"The darkness received not the light which was pouring
its rays upon it" (
Joh 1:5, 11) [OLSHAUSEN].
16. because he had done these things on the sabbath
day--What to these hypocritical religionists was the doing
of the most glorious and beneficent miracles, compared with
the atrocity of doing them on the sabbath day! Having given
them this handle, on purpose to raise the first public
controversy with them, and thus open a fitting opportunity
of laying His claims before them, He rises at once to the
whole height of them, in a statement which for grandeur and
terseness exceeds almost anything that ever afterwards fell
from Him, at least to His enemies.
17, 18. My Father worketh hitherto and I work--The
"I" is emphatic; "The creative and
conservative activity of My Father has known no
sabbath-cessation from the beginning until now, and that
is the law of My working."
18. God was his Father--literally, "His own [or
peculiar] Father," (as in
Ro 8:32). The addition is their own, but a very proper
making himself equal with God--rightly
gathering this to be His meaning, not from the mere words
"My Father," but from His claim of right to act
as His Father did in the like high sphere, and by the same
law of ceaseless activity in that sphere. And as, instead
of instantly disclaiming any such meaning--as He must have
done if it was false--He positively sets His seal to it in
the following verses, merely explaining how consistent such
claim was with the prerogatives of His Father, it is beyond
all doubt that we have here an assumption of peculiar
personal Sonship, or participation in the Father's
19, 20. the Son can do nothing of himself--that is,
apart from and in rivalry of the Father, as they
supposed. The meaning is, "The Son can have no
separate interest or action from the
for what things, &c.--On the
contrary, "whatever the Father doeth that same doeth
likewise--"in the like
manner." What claim to absolute equality with the
Father could exceed this: not only to do "the same
things," but to do them as the Father does
20. Father loveth . . . and showeth him all,
&c.--As love has no concealments, so it results from
the perfect fellowship and mutual endearment of the Father
and the Son (see on Joh 1:1; Joh 1:18), whose interests are one, even as
their nature, that the Father communicates to the Son all
His counsels, and what has been thus shown to the Son is by
Him executed in His mediatorial character. "With the
Father, doing is willing; it is only the Son
who acts in Time" [ALFORD]. Three things here
are clear: (1) The personal distinctions in the
Godhead. (2) Unity of action among the Persons
results from unity of nature. (3) Their oneness of
interest is no unconscious or involuntary thing, but a
thing of glorious consciousness, will, and
love, of which the Persons themselves are the proper
show him greater things,
&c.--referring to what He goes on to mention (
Joh 5:21-31), comprised in two great words, LIFE and
JUDGMENT, which STIER beautifully calls God's
Regalia. Yet these, Christ says, the Father and He do
21-23. raiseth the dead and quickeneth them--one act
in two stages. This is His absolute prerogative as
so the Son quickeneth them--that is,
raiseth up and quickeneth.
whom he will--not only doing the
same divine act, but doing it as the result of His
own will, even as the Father does it. This statement is
of immense importance in relation to the miracles of
Christ, distinguishing them from similar miracles of
prophets and apostles, who as human instruments were
employed to perform super-natural actions, while Christ did
all as the Father's commissioned Servant indeed,
but in the exercise of His own absolute right of
22. For the Father judgeth no man, &c.--rather,
"For neither doth the Father judge any man,"
implying that the same "thing was meant in the former
verse of the quickening of the dead"--both acts being
done, not by the Father and the Son, as though twice
done, but by the Father through the Son as His
all judgment--judgment in its most
comprehensive sense, or as we should say, all
23. honour the Son as . . . the Father--As he who
believes that Christ in the foregoing verses has given a
true account of His relation to the Father must of
necessity hold Him entitled to the same honor as the
Father, so He here adds that it was the Father's
express intention in making over all judgment to the Son,
that men should thus honor Him.
honoureth not the Father--does not do
it in fact, whatever he may imagine, and will be held as
not doing it by the Father Himself, who will accept no
homage which is not accorded to His own Son.
24. believeth on him that sent me--that is, believeth in
Him as having sent Me. I have spoken of the Son's right
not only to heal the sick but to raise from the dead, and
quicken whom He will: And now I say unto you, That
life-giving operation has already passed upon all who
receive My words as the Sent of the Father on the great
errand of mercy.
hath everlasting life--immediately on
his believing (compare
Joh 3:18; 1Jo 5:12, 13).
is passed--"hath passed
from death unto life--What a
25-29. The hour cometh--in its whole fulness, at
and now is--in its beginnings.
the dead--the spiritually dead,
as is clear from
Joh 5:28. Here He rises from the calmer phrase
"hearing his word" (
Joh 5:24), to the grander expression, "hearing
the voice of the Son of God," to signify that as
it finds men in a dead condition, so it carries with
it a resurrection-power.
shall live--in the sense of
26. given to the Son, &c.--Does this refer to the
essential life of the Son before all time (
Joh 1:4) (as most of the Fathers, and OLSHAUSEN, STIER,
ALFORD, &c., among the moderns), or to the purpose of
God that this essential life should reside in the Person of
the Incarnate Son, and be manifested thus to the world?
[CALVIN, LUCKE, LUTHARDT, &c.] The question is as
difficult as the subject is high. But as all that Christ
says of His essential relation to the Father is
intended to explain and exalt His mediatorial
functions, so the one seems in our Lord's own mind and
language mainly the starting-point of the other.
27. because he is the Son of man--This seems to confirm the
last remark, that what Christ had properly in view was the
indwelling of the Son's essential life in
humanity as the great theater and medium
of divine display, in both the great departments of His
work--life-giving and judgment. The appointment of a
Judge in our own nature is one of the most beautiful
arrangements of divine wisdom in redemption.
28. Marvel not at this--this committal of all judgment to
the Son of man.
for the hour is coming--He adds not in
this case (as in
Joh 5:25), "and now is," because this was not
to be till the close of the whole dispensation of mercy.
29. resurrection of life--that is, to life everlasting (
of damnation--It would have been harsh
to say "the resurrection of death," though that
is meant, for sinners rise from death to death
[BENGEL]. The resurrection of both classes is an exercise
of sovereign authority; but in the one case it is an
act of grace, in the other of justice.
Da 12:2, from which the language is taken). How awfully
grand are these unfoldings of His dignity and authority
from the mouth of Christ Himself! And they are all in the
third person; in what follows He resumes the
30-32. of mine own self do nothing--that is, apart from the
Father, or in any interest than My own. (See on Joh 5:19).
as I hear--that is, "My judgments
are all anticipated in the bosom of My Father, to
which I have immediate access, and by Me only responded
to and reflected. They cannot therefore err, as
I live for one end only, to carry into effect the will of
Him that sent Me."
31. If I . . . witness of myself--standing alone,
and setting up any separate interest.
32. There is another--that is, the Father, as is
plain from the connection. How brightly the distinction of
the Persons shines out here!
and I know that the witness,
&c.--"This is the Son's testimony to the
Father's truth (see
Joh 7:28; 8:26, 55). It testifies to the full
consciousness on the part of the Son, even in the days of
His humiliation, of the righteousness of the Father"
[ALFORD]. And thus He cheered His spirit under the cloud of
human opposition which was already gathering over His head.
33-35. Ye sent unto John--(See
Joh 1:19, &c.).
receive not testimony . . .
from man--that is, depend not on human testimony.
but . . . that ye might be
saved--"I refer to him merely to aid your
35. He was a burning and a shining light--literally,
"the burning and shining lamp" (or
torch):--that is, "the great light of his day."
Christ is never called by the humble word here applied to
John--a light-bearer--studiously used to distinguish
him from his Master, but ever the Light in the most
absolute sense. (See on Joh
willing for a season--that is, till
they saw that it pointed whither they were not prepared to
to rejoice in his light--There is a
play of irony here, referring to the hollow delight with
which his testimony tickled them.
36-38. I have greater witness--rather, "The witness
which I have is greater."
the works . . . bear witness
of me--not simply as miracles nor even as a miracle
of mercy, but these miracles, as He did them,
with a will and a power, a majesty and
a grace manifestly His own.
37. the Father himself . . . hath borne witness
of me--not referring, probably, to the voice of His
baptism, but (as seems from what follows) to the testimony
of the Old Testament Scripture [CALVIN, LUCKE, MEYER,
neither heard his voice,
&c.--never recognized Him in this character. The words
are "designedly mysterious, like many others which our
Lord uttered" [STIER].
38. not his word abiding in you--passing now from the
Witness to the testimony borne by Him in
"the lively oracles" (
Ac 7:38): both were alike strangers to their breasts,
as was evidenced by their rejecting Him to whom all that
witness was borne.
39-42. Search the scriptures, &c.--"In the
Scriptures ye find your charter of eternal life; go search
them then, and you will find that I am the Great Burden of
their testimony; yet ye will not come to Me for that life
eternal which you profess to find there, and of which they
tell you I am the appointed Dispenser." (Compare
Ac 17:11, 12). How touching and gracious are these last
words! Observe here (1) The honor which Christ gives to the
Scriptures, as a record which all have a right and
are bound to search--the reverse of which the Church
of Rome teaches; (2) The opposite extreme is, resting in
the mere Book without the living Christ, to
direct the soul to whom is its main use and chiefest glory.
41. I receive not honour from men--contrasting His own end
with theirs, which was to obtain human applause.
42. not the love of God in you--which would inspire you
with a single desire to know His mind and will, and yield
yourselves to it, in spite of prejudice and regardless of
43-47. if another shall come, &c.--How strikingly has
this been verified in the history of the Jews! "From
the time of the true Christ to our time, sixty-four false
Christs have been reckoned by whom they have been
44. How can ye believe, &c.--(See on Joh 5:40,41). The "will
Joh 5:40, and "cannot" here are just
different features of the same awful state of the human
45. Do not think I will accuse you to the Father--"My
errand hither is not to collect evidence to condemn you at
God's bar." one that accuseth you,
even Moses, &c.--"Alas! that will be too well
done by another, and him the object of all your religious
boastings--Moses," here put for "the
Law," the basis of the Old Testament Scriptures.
46. he wrote of me--"an important testimony to the
subject of the whole Pentateuch--'of Me'"
47. If ye believe not--(See
his writings . . . my
words--a remarkable contrast, not absolutely
exalting Old Testament Scripture above His own words, but
pointing to the office of those venerable documents to
prepare Christ's way, to the necessity universally
felt for documentary testimony in revealed religion,
and perhaps (as STIER adds) to the relation which the
comparative "letter" of the Old Testament
holds to the more flowing "words" of "spirit
and life" which characterize the New Testament.
15. departed . . . to a mountain himself
alone--(1) to rest, which He came to this
"desert place" on purpose to do before the
miracle of the loaves, but could not for the multitude that
followed Him (see
Mr 6:31); and (2) "to pray" (
Mt 14:23; Mr 6:46). But from His mountain-top He kept
watching the ship (see on Joh 6:18),
and doubtless prayed both for them, and with a view to the
new manifestation which He was to give them of His glory.
16, 17. when even was come--(See on Mr 6:35).
entered into a
ship--"constrained" to do so by their
Mt 14:22; Mr 6:45), in order to put an end to the
misdirected excitement in His favor (
Joh 6:15), into which the disciples themselves may have
been somewhat drawn. The word "constrained"
implies reluctance on their part, perhaps from
unwillingness to part with their Master and embark at
night, leaving Him alone on the mountain.
toward Capernaum--Mark says (
Mr 6:45), "unto Bethsaida," meaning
"Bethsaida of Galilee" (
Joh 12:21), on the west side of the lake. The place
they left was of the same name (see on Mr 6:32).
Jesus was not come to them--They
probably lingered in hopes of His still joining them, and
so let the darkness come on.
18, 19. sea arose, &c.--and they were "now in the
midst of it" (
Mt 14:24). Mark adds the graphic and touching
particular, "He saw them toiling in rowing" (
Mr 6:48), putting forth all their strength to buffet
the waves and bear on against a head wind, but to little
effect. He saw this from His mountain-top, and
through the darkness of the night, for His heart was all
with them; yet would He not go to their relief till His own
19. they see Jesus--"about the fourth watch of the
Mt 14:25; Mr 6:48), or between three and six in the
walking on the sea--What Job (
Job 9:8) celebrates as the distinguishing prerogative
of G OD, "WHO ALONE spreadeth out the heavens, and
TREADETH UPON THE WAVES OF THE SEA"--What AGUR
challenges as G OD'S unapproachable prerogative, to
" GATHER THE WIND IN HIS FISTS, and BIND THE WATERS IN
A GARMENT" (
Pr 30:4) --lo! this is here done in flesh, by
"THE SON OF MAN."
drawing nigh to the ship--yet as
though He "would have passed by them,"
Mr 6:48 (compare
Lu 24:28; Ge 18:3, 5; 32:24-26).
they were afraid--"cried out for
Mt 14:26), "supposing it had been a spirit"
Mr 6:49). He would appear to them at first like a dark
moving speck upon the waters; then as a human figure,
but--in the dark tempestuous sky, and not dreaming that it
could be their Lord--they take it for a spirit. (How often
thus we miscall our chiefest mercies--not only thinking
them distant when they are near, but thinking the best the
20. It is I; be not afraid--Matthew (
Mt 14:27) and Mark (
Mr 6:50) give before these exhilarating words, that to
them well-known one, "Be of good cheer!"
21. willingly received him into the ship--their first fears
being now converted into wonder and delight.
and immediately the ship was at the
land--This additional miracle, for as such it is manifestly
related, is recorded here alone. Yet all that is meant
seems to be that as the storm was suddenly calmed, so the
little bark--propelled by the secret power of the Lord of
Nature now sailing in it--glided through the now unruffled
waters, and while they were wrapt in wonder at what had
happened, not heeding their rapid motion, was found
at port, to their still further surprise.
Joh 6:22-71. JESUS FOLLOWED BY THE MULTITUDES TO
CAPERNAUM, DISCOURSES TO THEM IN THE SYNAGOGUE OF THE BREAD
OF LIFE--EFFECT OF THIS ON TWO CLASSES OF THE DISCIPLES.
22-24. These verses are a little involved, from the
Evangelist's desire to mention every circumstance,
however minute, that might call up the scene as vividly to
the reader as it stood before his own view.
The day following--the miracle of the
loaves, and the stormy night; the day on which they landed
the people which stood on the other
side of the sea--not the whole multitude that had been fed,
but only such of them as remained over night about the
shore, that is, on the east side of the lake; for we
are supposed to have come, with Jesus and His disciples in
the ship, to the west side, to Capernaum.
saw that there was none other boat
there, &c.--The meaning is, the people had observed
that there had been only one boat on the east side where
they were; namely, the one in which the disciples had
crossed at night to the other, the west side, and they had
also observed that Jesus had not gone on board that boat,
but His disciples had put off without Him:
23. Howbeit, &c.--"Howbeit," adds the
Evangelist, in a lively parenthesis, "there came other
boats from Tiberias" (which lay near the southwest
coast of the lake), whose passengers were part of the
multitude that had followed Jesus to the east side, and
been miraculously fed; these boats were fastened somewhere
(says the Evangelist)
nigh unto the place where they did eat
bread, after that the Lord had given thanks--thus he refers
to the glorious "miracle of the loaves"--and now
they were put in requisition to convey the people back
again to the west side. For when "the people saw that
Jesus was not there, neither His disciples, they also took
shipping [in these boats] and came to Capernaum, seeking
25. when they had found him on the other side--at
they said, &c.--astonished at His
being there, and wondering how He could have
accomplished it, whether by land or water, and when
He came; for being quite unaware of His having walked upon
the sea and landed with the disciples in the ship, they
could not see how, unless He had travelled all night round
the head of the lake alone, He could have reached
Capernaum, and even then, how He could have arrived before
26. Ye seek me, &c.--Jesus does not put them through
their difficulty, says nothing of His treading on the waves
of the sea, nor even notices their question, but takes
advantage of the favorable moment for pointing out to them
how forward, flippant, and superficial were their views,
and how low their desires. "Ye seek Me not because ye
saw the miracles"--literally, "the
signs," that is, supernatural tokens of a higher
presence, and a divine commission, "but because ye did
eat of the loaves and were filled." From this He
proceeds at once to that other Bread, just as, with
the woman of Samaria, to that other Water (
Joh 4:9-15). We should have supposed all that follows
to have been delivered by the wayside, or wherever they
happened first to meet. But from
Joh 6:59 we gather that they had probably met about the
door of the synagogue--"for that was the day in which
they assembled in their synagogues" [LIGHTFOOT]--and
that on being asked, at the close of the service, if He had
any word of exhortation to the people, He had taken the two
breads, the perishing and the living bread,
for the subject of His profound and extraordinary
27. which the Son of man--taking that title of Himself
which denoted His incarnate life.
shall give unto you--in the sense of
him hath God the Father sealed--marked
out and authenticated for that transcendent office, to
impart to the world the bread of an everlasting life, and
this in the character of "the Son of man."
28-31. What shall we do . . . the works of
God--such works as God will approve. Different answers may
be given to such a question, according to the spirit
which prompts the inquiry. (See
Ho 6:6-8; Lu 3:12-14). Here our Lord, knowing whom He
had to deal with, shapes His reply accordingly.
29. This is the work of God--That lies at the threshold of
all acceptable obedience, being not only the prerequisite
to it, but the proper spring of it--in that sense, the work
of works, emphatically "the work of God."
30. What sign showest thou, &c.--But how could they ask
"a sign," when many of them scarce a day before
had witnessed such a "sign" as had never till
then been vouchsafed to men; when after witnessing it, they
could hardly be restrained from making Him a king; when
they followed Him from the one side of the lake to the
other; and when, in the opening words of this very
discourse, He had chided them for seeking Him, "not
because they saw the signs," but for the
loaves? The truth seems to be that they were confounded by
the novel claims which our Lord had just advanced.
In proposing to make Him a king, it was for far other
purposes than dispensing to the world the bread of an
everlasting life; and when He seemed to raise His claims
even higher still, by representing it as the grand
"work of God," that they should believe on
Himself as His Sent One, they saw very clearly that He
was making a demand upon them beyond anything they were
prepared to accord to Him, and beyond all that man had ever
before made. Hence their question, "What dost Thou
31. Our fathers did eat manna, &c.--insinuating the
inferiority of Christ's miracle of the loaves to those
of Moses: "When Moses claimed the confidence of the
fathers, 'he gave them bread from heaven to
eat'--not for a few thousands, but for millions, and
not once only, but daily throughout their wilderness
32, 33. Moses gave you not, &c.--"It was not Moses
that gave you the manna, and even it was but from the lower
heavens; 'but My Father giveth you the true
bread,' and that 'from
33. For the bread of God is he, &c.--This verse is
perhaps best left in its own transparent grandeur--holding
up the Bread Itself as divine, spiritual, and
eternal; its ordained Fountain and essential Substance,
"Him who came down from heaven to give it"
(that Eternal Life which was with the Father and was
manifested unto us,
1Jo 1:2); and its designed objects, "the
34. Lord, evermore give us this bread--speaking now with a
certain reverence (as at
Joh 6:25), the perpetuity of the manna floating perhaps
in their minds, and much like the Samaritan woman, when her
eyes were but half opened, "Sir, give Me this
water," &c. (
35. I am the bread of life--Henceforth the discourse is all
in the first person, "I," "Me,"
which occur in one form or other, as STIER reckons,
he that cometh to me--to obtain what
the soul craves, and as the only all-sufficient and
ordained source of supply.
hunger . . . thirst--shall
have conscious and abiding satisfaction.
36. But . . . ye have seen me, and believe
not--seen Him not in His mere bodily presence, but in all
the majesty of His life, His teaching, His works.
37-40. All that, &c.--This comprehensive and very grand
passage is expressed with a peculiar artistic precision.
The opening general statement (
Joh 6:37) consists of two members: (1) "ALL THAT
THE F ATHER GIVETH ME SHALL COME TO ME"--that is,
"Though ye, as I told you, have no faith in Me, My
errand into the world shall in no wise be defeated; for all
that the Father giveth Me shall infallibly come to
Me." Observe, what is given Him by the Father
is expressed in the singular number and
neuter gender--literally, "everything"; while
those who come to Him are put in the
masculine gender and singular
number--"every one." The whole mass, so to
speak, is gifted by the Father to the Son as a
unity, which the Son evolves, one by one, in the
execution of His trust. So
Joh 17:2, "that He should give eternal life to
all that which Thou hast given Him" [BENGEL]. This
"shall" expresses the glorious
certainty of it, the Father being pledged to see to it
that the gift be no empty mockery. (2) "AND HIM THAT
COMETH TO MEI WILL IN NO WISE CAST OUT." As the former
was the divine, this is just the human side
of the same thing. True, the "coming" ones of the
second clause are just the "given" ones of the
first. But had our Lord merely said, "When
those that have been given Me of My Father shall come
to Me, I will receive them"--besides being very flat,
the impression conveyed would have been quite different,
sounding as if there were no other laws in
operation, in the movement of sinners to Christ, but
such as are wholly divine and inscrutable to
us; whereas, though He does speak of it as a sublime
certainty which men's refusals cannot frustrate,
He speaks of that certainty as taking effect only by
men's voluntary advances to Him and acceptance
of Him--"Him that cometh to Me," "whosoever
will," throwing the door wide open. Only it is not the
simply willing, but the actually coming, whom
He will not cast out; for the word here employed usually
denotes arrival, as distinguished from the ordinary
word, which rather expresses the act of coming (see
Joh 8:42, Greek), [WEBSTER and W ILKINSON].
"In no wise" is an emphatic negative, to meet the
fears of the timid (as in
Re 21:27, to meet the presumption of the hardened).
These, then, being the two members of the general opening
statement, what follows is meant to take in both,
38. For I came down from heaven not to do Mine own will--to
play an independent part.
but--in respect to both the foregoing
things, the divine and the human side of
the will of Him that sent Me--What
this twofold will of Him that sent Him is, we are next
sublimely told (
Joh 6:39, 40):
39. And this--in the first place.
is the will of Him that sent me, that
which He hath given Me--(taking up the
identical words of
I should lose nothing, but should
raise it up at the last day--The meaning is not, of course,
that He is charged to keep the objects entrusted to Him
as He received them, so as they should merely suffer
nothing in His hands. For as they were just
"perishing" sinners of Adam's family,
to let "nothing" of such "be lost," but
"raise them up at the last day," must involve,
first, giving His flesh for them (
Joh 6:51), that they "might not perish, but have
everlasting life"; and then, after
"keeping them from falling," raising their
sleeping dust in incorruption and glory, and presenting
them, body and soul, perfect and entire, wanting nothing,
to Him who gave them to Him, saying, "Behold I and the
children which God hath given Me." So much for the
first will of Him that sent Him, the divine side
of man's salvation, whose every stage and movement is
inscrutable to us, but infallibly certain.
40. And this--in the second place.
is the will of Him that sent Me, that
every one which seeth the Son and believeth on Him--seeing
the Son believeth on Him.
may have everlasting life, and I will
raise him up at the last day--This is the human side
of the same thing as in the foregoing verse, and answering
to "Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast
out"; that is, I have it expressly in charge that
everyone that so "beholdeth" (so vieweth) the Son
as to believe on Him shall have everlasting life; and, that
none of Him be lost, "I will raise him up at
the last day." (See on Joh
41-46. Jews murmured--muttered, not in our Lord's
hearing, but He knew it (
Joh 6:43; Joh 2:25).
he said, I am the bread,
&c.--Missing the sense and glory of this, and having no
relish for such sublimities, they harp upon the "Bread
from heaven." "What can this mean? Do we not know
all about Him--where, when, and of whom He was born? And
yet He says He came down from heaven!"
43, 44. Murmur not . . . No man--that is, Be not
either startled or stumbled at these sayings; for it needs
divine teaching to understand them, divine drawing to
submit to them.
44. can come to me--in the sense of
except the Father which hath sent
me--that is, the Father as the Sender of Me and
to carry out the design of My mission.
draw him--by an internal and
efficacious operation; though by all the means of
rational conviction, and in a way altogether consonant to
their moral nature (
So 1:4; Jer 31:3; Ho 11:3, 4).
raise him up, &c.--(See on Joh 6:54).
45. written in the prophets--in
Isa 54:13; Jer 31:33, 34; other similar passages may
also have been in view. Our Lord thus falls back upon
Scripture authority for this seemingly hard saying.
all taught of God--not by
external revelation merely, but by internal
illumination, corresponding to the "drawing"
Every man therefore, &c.--that is,
who hath been thus efficaciously taught of Him.
cometh unto me--with absolute
certainty, yet in the sense above given of
"drawing"; that is, "As none can come to Me
but as divinely drawn, so none thus drawn shall fail to
46. Not that any man hath seen, &c.--Lest they should
confound that "hearing and learning of the
Father," to which believers are admitted by divine
teaching, with His own immediate access to Him, He here
throws in a parenthetical explanation; stating, as
explicitly as words could do it, how totally different the
two cases were, and that only He who is "from
God" hath this naked, immediate access to the Father.
48. I am the bread of life--"As he that believeth in
Me hath everlasting life, so I am Myself the everlasting
Sustenance of that life." (Repeated from
49. Your fathers--of whom ye spake (
Joh 6:31); not "ours," by which He
would hint that He had a higher descent, of which
they dreamt not [BENGEL].
did eat manna . . . and are
dead--recurring to their own point about the manna, as one
of the noblest of the ordained preparatory
illustrations of His own office: "Your fathers, ye
say, ate manna in the wilderness; and ye say well, for so
they did, but they are dead--even they whose
carcasses fell in the wilderness did eat of that bread; the
Bread whereof I speak cometh down from heaven, which the
manna never did, that men, eating of it, may live for
51. I am, &c.--Understand, it is of MYSELF I now speak
as the Bread from heaven; of MEif a man eat he shall live
for ever; and "THE BREAD WHICH I WILL GIVE IS MY
FLESH, WHICH I WILL GIVE FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD."
Here, for the first time in this high discourse, our Lord
explicitly introduces His sacrificial death--for
only rationalists can doubt this not only as that which
constitutes Him the Bread of life to men, but as THAT very
element IN HIM WHICH POSSESSES THE LIFE-GIVING
VIRTUE.--"From this time we hear no more (in this
discourse) of "Bread"; this figure is dropped,
and the reality takes its place" [STIER]. The words
"I will give" may be compared with the
words of institution at the Supper, "This is My body
which is given for you" (
Lu 22:19), or in Paul's report of it,
"broken for you" (
52. Jews strove among themselves--arguing the point
How can, &c.--that is, Give us His
flesh to eat? Absurd.
53-58. Except ye eat the flesh . . . and drink
the blood . . . no life, &c.--The harshest
word He had yet uttered in their ears. They asked how it
was possible to eat His flesh. He answers, with
great solemnity, "It is indispensable."
Yet even here a thoughtful hearer might find something to
temper the harshness. He says they must not only "eat
His flesh" but "drink His
blood," which could not but suggest the idea of
His death--implied in the separation of one's
flesh from his blood. And as He had already hinted that it
was to be something very different from a natural
death, saying, "My flesh I will give for the life of
the world" (
Joh 6:51), it must have been pretty plain to candid
hearers that He meant something above the gross idea which
the bare terms expressed. And farther, when He added that
they "had no life in them unless they thus ate
and drank," it was impossible they should think He
meant that the temporal life they were then living
was dependent on their eating and drinking, in this gross
sense, His flesh and blood. Yet the whole statement was
certainly confounding, and beyond doubt was meant to be so.
Our Lord had told them that in spite of all they had
"seen" in Him, they "did not believe"
Joh 6:36). For their conviction therefore he
does not here lay Himself out; but having the ear not only
of them but of the more candid and thoughtful in the
crowded synagogue, and the miracle of the loaves having led
up to the most exalted of all views of His Person and
Office, He takes advantage of their very difficulties and
objections to announce, for all time, those most profound
truths which are here expressed, regardless of the disgust
of the unteachable, and the prejudices even of the most
sincere, which His language would seem only designed to
deepen. The truth really conveyed here is no other
than that expressed in
Joh 6:51, though in more emphatic terms--that He
Himself, in the virtue of His sacrificial death, is the
spiritual and eternal life of men; and that unless men
voluntarily appropriate to themselves this death, in its
sacrificial virtue, so as to become the very life and
nourishment of their inner man, they have no spiritual and
eternal life at all. Not as if His death were the
only thing of value, but it is what gives all else in
Christ's Incarnate Person, Life, and Office, their
whole value to us sinners.
54. Whoso eateth . . . hath, &c.--The former
verse said that unless they partook of Him they had
no life; this adds, that whoever does so "hath
and I will raise him up at the last
day--For the fourth time this is repeated (see
Joh 6:39, 40, 44) --showing most clearly that the
"eternal life" which such a man
"hath" cannot be the same with the
future resurrection life from which it is carefully
distinguished each time, but a life communicated here
below immediately on believing (
Joh 3:36; 5:24, 25); and giving to the resurrection
of the body as that which consummates the redemption
of the entire man, a prominence which in the current
theology, it is to be feared, it has seldom had. (See
Ro 8:23; 1Co 15:1-58, throughout).
56. He that eateth . . . dwelleth in me and I in
him--As our food becomes incorporated with ourselves, so
Christ and those who eat His flesh and drink His blood
become spiritually one life, though
57. As the living Father hath sent me--to communicate His
and I live by the Father--literally,
"because of the Father"; My life and His being
one, but Mine that of a Son, whose it is to be
"of the Father." (See
Joh 1:18; 5:26).
he that eateth me, . . .
shall live by me--literally, "because of Me." So
that though one spiritual life with Him, "the
Head of every man is Christ, as the head of Christ is
1Co 11:3; 3:23).
58. This is that bread, &c.--a sort of summing up of
the whole discourse, on which let this one further remark
suffice--that as our Lord, instead of softening down His
figurative sublimities, or even putting them in naked
phraseology, leaves the great truths of His Person and
Office, and our participation of Him and it, enshrined for
all time in those glorious forms of speech, so when we
attempt to strip the truth of these figures, figures though
they be, it goes away from us, like water when the vessel
is broken, and our wisdom lies in raising our own spirit,
and attuning our own ear, to our Lord's chosen modes of
expression. (It should be added that although this
discourse has nothing to do with the Sacrament of the
Supper, the Sacrament has everything to do with it, as
the visible embodiment of these figures, and, to the
believing partaker, a real, yea, and the most lively
and affecting participation of His flesh and blood, and
nourishment thereby of the spiritual and eternal life, here
59. These things said he in the synagogue--which seems to
imply that what follows took place after the congregation
had broken up.
60-65. Many . . . of his disciples--His pretty
constant followers, though an outer circle of them.
hard saying--not merely harsh, but
insufferable, as the word often means in the Old
who can hear--submit to listen to it.
61, 62. Doth this offend . . . What and
if, &c.--that is, "If ye are stumbled at what I
have said, how will ye bear what I now say?"
Not that His ascension itself would stumble them more than
His death, but that after recoiling from the mention
of the one, they would not be in a state of mind to take in
63. the flesh profiteth nothing--Much of His discourse was
about "flesh"; but flesh as such, mere
flesh, could profit nothing, much less impart that
life which the Holy Spirit alone communicates to the
the words that I speak . . .
are spirit and . . . life--The whole burden of
the discourse is "spirit," not mere flesh,
and "life" in its highest, not its lowest
sense, and the words I have employed are to be interpreted
solely in that sense.
64. But there are some, &c.--that is, "But it
matters little to some of you in what sense I speak, for ye
believe not." This was said, adds the Evangelist, not
merely of the outer but of the inner circle of His
disciples; for He knew the traitor, though it was not yet
time to expose him.
65. Therefore said I, &c.--that is, "That was why
I spoke to you of the necessity of divine teaching which
some of you are strangers to."
except it were given him--plainly
showing that by the Father's "drawing" (
Joh 6:44) was meant an internal and
efficacious operation, for in recalling the statement
here He says, it must be "given to a man to
come" to Christ.
66-71. From that time, &c.--or, in consequence
of this. Those last words of our Lord seemed to have given
them the finishing stroke--they could not stand it any
walked no more--Many a journey, it may
be, they had taken with Him, but now they gave Him up
67. the twelve--the first time they are thus mentioned in
Will ye also go away?--Affecting
appeal! Evidently Christ felt the desertion of Him
even by those miserable men who could not abide His
statements; and seeing a disturbance even of the
wheat by the violence of the wind which blew away the
chaff (not yet visibly showing itself, but open to
His eyes of fire), He would nip it in the bud by
this home question.
68. Then Simon Peter--whose forwardness in this case was
noble, and to the wounded spirit of His Lord doubtless very
Lord, to whom, &c.--that is,
"We cannot deny that we have been staggered as
well as they, and seeing so many go away who, as we
thought, might have been retained by teaching a little less
hard to take in, our own endurance has been severely tried,
nor have we been able to stop short of the question, Shall
we follow the rest, and give it up? But when it came
to this, our light returned, and our hearts were reassured.
For as soon as we thought of going away, there arose upon
us that awful question, 'TO WHOM shall we go?' To
the lifeless formalism and wretched traditions of the
elders? to the gods many and lords many of the heathen
around us? or to blank unbelief? Nay, Lord, we are shut up.
They have none of that 'ETERNAL LIFE' to
offer us whereof Thou hast been discoursing, in words rich
and ravishing as well as in words staggering to human
wisdom. That life we cannot want; that life we have learnt
to crave as a necessity of the deeper nature which Thou
hast awakened: 'the words of that eternal
life' (the authority to reveal it and the power
to confer it). Thou hast: Therefore will we stay with
69. And we believe,--(See on Mt
16:16). Peter seems to have added this not
merely--probably not so much--as an assurance to his
Lord of his heart's belief in Him, as for the
purpose of fortifying himself and his faithful
brethren against that recoil from his Lord's
harsh statements which he was probably struggling against
with difficulty at that moment. Note.--There are
seasons when one's faith is tried to the utmost,
particularly by speculative difficulties; the spiritual eye
then swims, and all truth seems ready to depart from us. At
such seasons, a clear perception that to abandon the faith
of Christ is to face black desolation, ruin and
death; and on recoiling from this, to be able to fall
back, not merely on first principles and immovable
foundations, but on personal experience of a Living
Lord in whom all truth is wrapt up and made flesh for our
very benefit--this is a relief unspeakable. Under that
blessed Wing taking shelter, until we are again fit to
grapple with the questions that have staggered us, we at
length either find our way through them, or attain to a
calm satisfaction in the discovery that they lie beyond the
limits of present apprehension.
70. Have not I chosen . . . and one of you is a
devil:--"Well said, Simon-Barjonas, but that
'we' embraces not so wide a circle as in the
simplicity of thine heart thou thinkest; for though I have
chosen you but twelve, one even of these is a
'devil'" (the temple, the tool of that wicked
1, 2. After these things--that is, all that is recorded
walked in Galilee--continuing His
labors there, instead of going to Judea, as might have been
sought to kill him--referring back to
Joh 5:18. Hence it appears that our Lord did not
attend the Passover mentioned in
Joh 6:4 --being the third since His ministry
began, if the feast mentioned in
Joh 5:1 was a Passover.
3-5. His brethren said--(See on Mt 13:54-56).
Depart . . . into Judea,
Joh 7:5 this speech is ascribed to their
unbelief. But as they were in the "upper
room" among the one hundred and twenty disciples who
waited for the descent of the Spirit after the Lord's
Ac 1:14), they seem to have had their prejudices
removed, perhaps after His resurrection. Indeed here their
language is more that of strong prejudice and suspicion
(such as near relatives, even the best, too frequently
show in such cases), than from unbelief. There was
also, probably, a tincture of vanity in it.
"Thou hast many disciples in Judea; here in Galilee
they are fast dropping off; it is not like one who advances
the claims Thou dost to linger so long here, away from the
city of our solemnities, where surely 'the kingdom of
our father David' is to be set up: 'seeking,'
as Thou dost, 'to be known openly,' those miracles
of Thine ought not to be confined to this distant corner,
but submitted at headquarters to the inspection of 'the
Ps 69:8, "I am become a stranger to my
brethren, an alien unto my mother's
6-10. My time is not yet come--that is, for showing Himself
to the world.
your time is always ready--that is
"It matters little when we go up, for ye have no great
plans in life, and nothing hangs upon your movements. With
Me it is otherwise; on every movement of Mine there hangs
what ye know not. The world has no quarrel with you, for ye
bear no testimony against it, and so draw down upon
yourselves none of its wrath; but I am here to lift up My
voice against its hypocrisy, and denounce its abominations;
therefore it cannot endure Me, and one false step might
precipitate its fury on its Victim's head before the
time. Away, therefore, to the feast as soon as it suits
you; I follow at the fitting moment, but 'My time is
not yet full come.'"
10. then went he . . . not openly--not "in
the (caravan) company" [MEYER]. See on Lu 2:44.
as it were in secret--rather, "in
a manner secretly"; perhaps by some other route, and
in a way not to attract notice.
11-13. Jews--the rulers.
sought him--for no good end.
Where is He?--He had not been at
Jerusalem for probably a year and a half.
12. much murmuring--buzzing.
among the people--the multitudes; the
natural expression of a Jewish writer, indicating without
design the crowded state of Jerusalem at this festival
[WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
a good man . . . Nay
. . . deceiveth the people--the two opposite
views of His claims, that they were honest, and that
they were an imposture.
13. none spake openly of him--that is, in His favor,
"for fear of the [ruling] Jews."
14, 15. about the midst of the feast--the fourth or fifth
day of the eight, during which it lasted.
went up into the temple and
taught--The word denotes formal and continuous
teaching, as distinguished from mere casual
sayings. This was probably the first time that He
did so thus openly in Jerusalem. He had kept back till the
feast was half through, to let the stir about Him subside,
and entering the city unexpectedly, had begun His
"teaching" at the temple, and created a certain
awe, before the wrath of the rulers had time to break it.
15. How knoweth . . . letters--learning (
having never learned--at any
rabbinical school, as Paul under Gamaliel. These rulers
knew well enough that He had not studied under any
human teacher--an important admission against ancient and
modern attempts to trace our Lord's wisdom to human
sources [MEYER]. Probably His teaching on this occasion was
expository, manifesting that unrivalled faculty and
depth which in the Sermon on the Mount had excited the
astonishment of all.
16-18. doctrine . . . not mine, &c.--that is,
from Myself unauthorized; I am here by commission.
17. If any man will do his will, &c.--"is
willing," or "wishes to do."
whether . . . of God, or
. . . of myself--from above or from beneath; is
divine or an imposture of Mine. A principle of immense
importance, showing, on the one hand, that singleness of
desire to please God is the grand inlet to light on all
questions vitally affecting one's eternal
interests, and on the other, that the want of
his, whether perceived or not, is the chief cause of
infidelity amidst the light of revealed religion.
19, 20. Did not Moses, &c.--that is, In opposing Me ye
pretend zeal for Moses, but to the spirit and end of that
law which he gave ye are total strangers, and in
"going about to kill Me" ye are its greatest
20. The people answered, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about
to kill thee?--This was said by the multitude, who
as yet had no bad feeling to Jesus, and were not in the
secret of the plot hatching, as our Lord knew, against Him.
21-24. I have done one work, &c.--Taking no notice of
the popular appeal, as there were those there who knew well
enough what He meant, He recalls His cure of the impotent
man, and the murderous rage it had kindled (
Joh 5:9, 16, 18). It may seem strange that He should
refer to an event a year and a half old, as if but newly
done. But their present attempt "to kill Him"
brought up the past scene vividly, not only to Him, but
without doubt to them, too, if indeed they had ever
forgotten it; and by this fearless reference to it,
exposing their hypocrisy and dark designs, He gave His
position great moral strength.
22. Moses . . . gave unto you circumcision,
&c.--Though servile work was forbidden on the sabbath,
the circumcision of males on that day (which certainly was
a servile work) was counted no infringement of the Law. How
much less ought fault to be found with One who had made a
man "every whit whole"--or rather, "a
man's entire body whole"--on the sabbath-day? What
a testimony to the reality of the miracle, none daring to
meet the bold appeal.
24. Judge not, &c.--that is, Rise above the
letter into the spirit of the law.
25-27. some of them of Jerusalem--the citizens, who,
knowing the long-formed purpose of the rulers to put Jesus
to death, wondered that they were now letting Him teach
26. Do the rulers know, &c.--Have they got some new
light in favor of His claims?
27. Howbeit we know this man, &c.--This seems to refer
to some current opinion that Messiah's origin would be
mysterious (not altogether wrong), from which they
concluded that Jesus could not be He, since they knew all
about His family at Nazareth.
28, 29. cried Jesus--in a louder tone, and more solemn,
witnessing style than usual.
Ye both, &c.--that is, "Yes,
ye know both Myself and My local parentage, and (yet) I am
not come of Myself."
but he that sent me is true,
&c.--Probably the meaning is, "He that sent Me is
the only real Sender of any one."
30-32. sought to take . . . none laid
hands--their impotence being equal to their
31. When Christ cometh, will he, &c.--that is, If this
be not the Christ, what can the Christ do, when He does
come, which has not been anticipated and eclipsed by this
man? This was evidently the language of friendly persons,
overborne by their spiteful superiors, but unable to keep
32. heard that the people murmured--that mutterings to this
effect were going about, and thought it high time to stop
Him if He was not to be allowed to carry away the people.
33, 34. Yet a little while, &c.--that is, "Your
desire to be rid of Me will be for you all too soon
fulfilled. Yet a little while and we part company--for
ever; for I go whither ye cannot come: nor, even when ye at
length seek Him whom ye now despise, shall ye be able to
find Him"--referring not to any penitential, but to
purely selfish cries in their time of desperation.
35, 36. Whither will he go, &c.--They cannot comprehend
Him, but seem awed by the solemn grandeur of His warning.
He takes no notice, however, of their questions.
37-39. the last day, that great day of the feast--the
Le 23:39). It was a sabbath, the last feast day of the
year, and distinguished by very remarkable ceremonies.
"The generally joyous character of this feast broke
out on this day into loud jubilation, particularly at the
solemn moment when the priest, as was done on every day of
this festival, brought forth, in golden vessels, water from
the stream of Siloah, which flowed under the
temple-mountain, and solemnly poured it upon the altar.
Then the words of
Isa 12:3 were sung, With joy shall ye draw water out
of the wells of Salvation, and thus the symbolical
reference of this act, intimated in
Joh 7:39, was expressed" [OLSHAUSEN]. So ecstatic
was the joy with which this ceremony was
performed--accompanied with sound of trumpets--that it used
to be said, "Whoever had not witnessed it had never
seen rejoicing at all" [LIGHTFOOT].
Jesus stood--On this high occasion,
then, He who had already drawn all eyes upon Him by His
supernatural power and unrivalled teaching--"JESUS
stood," probably in some elevated position.
and cried--as if making proclamation
in the audience of all the people.
If any man thirst, let him come unto
me, and drink!--What an offer! The deepest cravings of the
human spirit are here, as in the Old Testament, expressed
by the figure of "thirst," and the eternal
satisfaction of them by "drinking." To the
woman of Samaria He had said almost the same thing, and in
the same terms (
Joh 4:13, 14). But what to her was simply affirmed to
her as a fact, is here turned into a world-wide
proclamation; and whereas there, the gift by Him
of the living water is the most prominent idea--in contrast
with her hesitation to give Him the perishable water of
Jacob's well--here, the prominence is given to
Himself as the Well spring of all satisfaction. He had
in Galilee invited all the WEARY AND HEAVY-LADEN of the
human family to come under His wing and they should find
Mt 11:28), which is just the same deep want, and the
same profound relief of it, under another and equally
grateful figure. He had in the synagogue of Capernaum (
Joh 6:36) announced Himself, in every variety of form,
as "the B READ of Life," and as both able and
authorized to appease the "HUNGER," and quench
the " THIRST," of all that apply to Him. There
is, and there can be, nothing beyond that here. But what
was on all those occasions uttered in private, or addressed
to a provincial audience, is here sounded forth in the
streets of the great religious metropolis, and in language
of surpassing majesty, simplicity, and grace. It is just
Jehovah's ancient proclamation now sounding forth
through human flesh, "HO, EVERY ONE THAT
THIRSTETH, COME YE TO THE WATERS, AND HE THAT HATH NO
MONEY!" &c. (
Isa 55:1). In this light we have but two alternatives;
either to say with Caiaphas of Him that uttered such words,
"He is guilty of death," or falling down
before Him to exclaim with Thomas, " M Y LORD AND MY G
38. as the scripture hath said--These words belong to what
follows, "Out of his belly, as the scripture hath
said, shall flow," &c. referring not to any
particular passage, but to such as
Isa 58:11; Joe 3:18; Zec 14:8; Eze 47:1-12; in most of
which the idea is that of waters issuing from beneath the
temple, to which our Lord compares Himself and those who
believe in Him.
out of his belly--that is, his inner
man, his soul, as in
rivers of living water--(See on Joh 4:13). It refers primarily to the
copiousness, but indirectly also to the
diffusiveness, of this living water to the good of
39. this spake he of the Spirit--who, by His direct
personal agency, opens up this spring of living waters in
the human spirit (
Joh 3:6), and by His indwelling in the renewed soul
ensures their unfailing flow.
they that believe, &c.--As the
Holy Ghost is, in the redemption of man, entirely at the
service of Christ, as His Agent, so it is only in
believing connection with Christ that any one
"receives" the Spirit.
for the Holy Ghost was not yet
given--Beyond all doubt the word "given," or
some similar word, is the right supplement. In
Joh 16:7 the Holy Ghost is represented not only as the
gift of Christ, but a gift the communication of
which was dependent upon His own departure to the
Father. Now as Christ was not yet gone, so the
Holy Ghost was not yet given.
Jesus not yet glorified--The word
"glorified" is here used advisedly, to
teach the reader not only that the departure of
Christ to the Father was indispensable to the giving
of the Spirit, but that this illustrious Gift, direct from
the hands of the ascended Saviour, was God's intimation
to the world that He whom it had cast out, crucified, and
slain, was "His Elect, in whom His soul
delighted," and that it was through the smiting of
that Rock that the waters of the Spirit--for which the
Church was waiting, and with pomp at the feast of
tabernacles proclaiming its expectation--had gushed forth
upon a thirsty world.
40-43. Many . . . when they heard this
. . . said, Of a truth, &c.--The only wonder
is they did not all say it. "But their minds were
41. Others said, This is the Christ--(See on Joh 1:21).
Shall Christ come out of Galilee?
42. scripture said . . . of the seed of David,
and out of . . . Bethlehem, &c.--We accept
this spontaneous testimony to our David-descended,
Bethlehem-born Saviour. Had those who gave it made the
inquiry which the case demanded, they would have found that
Jesus "came out of Galilee" (
Joh 7:41) and "out of Bethlehem" both, alike
in fulfilment of prophecy as in point of fact. (
Mt 2:23; 4:13-16).
44-49. would have taken him; but, &c.--(See on Joh 7:30).
45. Then came the officers--"sent to take him"
Why . . . not brought
him?--already thirsting for their Victim, and thinking it
an easy matter to seize and bring Him.
46. Never man spake like this man--Noble testimony of
unsophisticated men! Doubtless they were strangers to the
profound intent of Christ's teaching, but there was
that in it which by its mysterious grandeur and transparent
purity and grace, held them spellbound. No doubt it was of
God that they should so feel, that their arm might be
paralyzed, as Christ's hour was not yet come; but even
in human teaching there has sometimes been felt such a
divine power, that men who came to kill them (for example,
ROWLAND HISS) have confessed to all that they were
47. ye also deceived--In their own servants this seemed
48. any of the rulers or . . . Pharisees
believed--"Many of them" did, including Nicodemus
and Joseph, but not one of these had openly "confessed
Joh 12:42), and this appeal must have stung such of
them as heard it to the quick.
49. But this people--literally, "multitude,"
meaning the ignorant rabble. (Pity these important
distinctions, so marked in the original of this Gospel,
should not be also in our version.)
knoweth not the law--that is, by
school learning, which only subverted it by human
are cursed--a cursed set (a kind of
swearing at them, out of mingled rage and scorn).
50-53. Nicodemus--reappearing to us after nearly three
years' absence from the history, as a member of the
council, probably then sitting.
51. Doth our law, &c.--a very proper, but all too tame
rejoinder, and evidently more from pressure of conscience
than any design to pronounce positively in the case.
"The feebleness of his defense of Jesus has a strong
contrast in the fierceness of the rejoinders of the
Pharisees" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
52. thou of Galilee--in this taunt expressing their scorn
of the party. Even a word of caution, or the gentlest
proposal to inquire before condemning, was with them
equivalent to an espousal of the hated One.
Search . . . out of Galilee
. . . no prophet--Strange! For had not
Jonah (of Gath-hepher) and even Elijah (of Thisbe)
arisen out of Galilee? And there it may be more, of whom we
have no record. But rage is blind, and deep prejudice
distorts all facts. Yet it looks as if they were afraid of
losing Nicodemus, when they take the trouble to reason the
point at all. It was just because he had
"searched," as they advised him, that he went the
length even that he did.
53. every man went unto his own home--finding their plot
could not at that time be carried into effect. Is your
rage thus impotent, ye chief priests?
1, 2. Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives--This should have
formed the last verse of the foregoing chapter. "The
return of the people to the inert quiet and security of
their dwellings (
Joh 7:53), at the close of the feast, is designedly
contrasted with our Lord's homeless way, so to
speak, of spending the short night, who is early in the
morning on the scene again. One cannot well see why what is
Lu 21:37, 38 may not even thus early have taken place;
it might have been the Lord's ordinary custom from the
beginning to leave the brilliant misery of the city every
night, that so He might compose His sorrowful and
interceding heart, and collect His energies for new labors
of love; preferring for His resting-place Bethany, and the
Mount of Olives, the scene thus consecrated by many
preparatory prayers for His final humiliation and
3-6. scribes and Pharisees--foiled in their yesterday's
attempt, and hoping to succeed better in this.
4, 5. woman . . . in adultery . . .
Moses . . . commanded . . . should be
stoned--simply put to death (
De 22:22), but in aggravated cases, at least in later
times, this was probably by stoning (
but what sayest thou--hoping, whatever
He might answer, to put Him in the wrong:--if He said,
Stone her, that would seem a stepping out of His province;
if He forbade it, that would hold Him up as a relaxer of
the public morals. But these cunning hypocrites were
6. stooped down--It will be observed He was sitting
when they came to Him.
with his finger wrote on the
ground--The words of our translators in italics ("as
though He heard them not") have hardly improved the
sense, for it is scarcely probable He could wish that to be
thought. Rather He wished to show them His aversion to
enter on the subject. But as this did not suit them, they
"continue asking Him," pressing for an answer. At
last, raising Himself He said.
7. He that is without sin--not meaning sinless altogether;
nor yet, guiltless of a literal breach of the Seventh
Commandment; but probably, he whose conscience acquits him
of any such sin.
cast a stone--"the
stone," meaning the first one (
8. again he stooped down and wrote--The design of this
second stooping and writing on the ground was evidently to
give her accusers an opportunity to slink away unobserved
by Him, and so avoid an exposure to His eye which
they could ill have stood. Accordingly it is added.
9. they . . . convicted . . . went out
one by one . . . Jesus was left alone--that is,
without one of her accusers remaining; for it is
the woman in the midst--that is, of
the remaining audience. While the trap failed to catch Him
for whom it was laid, it caught those who laid it. Stunned
by the unexpected home thrust, they immediately made
off--which makes the impudence of those impure hypocrites
in dragging such a case before the public eye the more
10. Woman, &c.--What inimitable tenderness and grace!
Conscious of her own guilt, and till now in the hands of
men who had talked of stoning her, wondering at the
skill with which her accusers had been dispersed, and
the grace of the few words addressed to herself, she
would be disposed to listen, with a reverence and
teachableness before unknown, to our Lord's admonition.
"And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee,
go and sin no more." He pronounces no pardon upon the
woman (such as, "Thy sins are forgiven thee"
Lu 5:28; 7:48] --"Go in peace" [compare
Mr 5:34; Lu 7:50; 8:48]), much less does He say that
she had done nothing condemnable; He simply leaves the
matter where it was. He meddles not with the
magistrate's office, nor acts the Judge in any
Joh 12:47). But in saying, "Go and sin no
more," which had been before said to one who
undoubtedly believed (
Joh 5:14), more is probably implied than expressed. If
brought suddenly to conviction of sin, admiration of her
Deliverer, and a willingness to be admonished and guided by
Him, this call to begin a new life may have carried with it
what would ensure and naturally bring about a permanent
change. (This whole narrative is wanting in some of the
earliest and most valuable manuscripts, and those which
have it vary to some extent. The internal evidence in its
favor is almost overpowering. It is easy to account for its
omission, though genuine; but if not so, it is next
to impossible to account for its insertion).
Joh 8:12-59. FURTHER DISCOURSES OF JESUS--ATTEMPT TO
12. I am the light of the world--As the former references
to water (
Joh 4:13, 14; 7:37-39) and to bread (
Joh 6:35) were occasioned by outward occurrences, so
this one to light. In "the treasury" where
it was spoken (see on Joh 8:20)
stood two colossal golden lamp-stands, on which hung a
multitude of lamps, lighted after the evening sacrifice
(probably every evening during the feast of tabernacles),
diffusing their brilliancy, it is said, over all the city.
Around these the people danced with great rejoicing. Now,
as amidst the festivities of the water from Siloam
Jesus cried, saying, "If any man thirst, let him come
unto me and drink," so now amidst the blaze and the
joyousness of this illumination, He proclaims, "I AM
THE L IGHT OF THE WORLD"--plainly in the most
absolute sense. For though He gives His disciples the
same title, they are only "light in the
Eph 5:8); and though He calls the Baptist "the
burning and shining light" (or "lamp"
of his day,
Joh 5:35), yet "he was not that Light, but
was sent to bear witness of that Light: that was THE TRUE L
IGHT which, coming into the world, lighteth every
Joh 1:8, 9). Under this magnificent title Messiah was
promised of old (
Isa 42:6; Mal 4:2, &c.).
he that followeth me--as one does a
light going before him, and as the Israelites did the
pillar of bright cloud in the wilderness.
but shall have the light of life--the
light, as of a new world, a newly awakened spiritual and
13-19. bearest record of thyself; thy record is not
true--How does He meet this specious cavil? Not by
disputing the wholesome human maxim that "self-praise
is no praise," but by affirming that He was an
exception to the rule, or rather, that it had no
application to Him.
14. for I know whence I came, and whither I go,
&c.--(See on Joh 7:28).
15. Ye judge after the flesh--with no spiritual
I judge no man.
16. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true, &c.--Ye
not only form your carnal and warped judgments of
Me, but are bent on carrying them into effect; I, though I
form and utter My judgment of you, am not here to carry
this into execution--that is reserved to a future day; yet
the judgment I now pronounce and the witness I now bear is
not Mine only as ye suppose, but His also that sent Me.
(See on Joh 5:31, 32). And these are
the two witnesses to any fact which your law requires.
20. These words spake Jesus in the treasury--a division, so
called, of the fore court of the temple, part of the court
of the women [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 19.6.2,
&c.], which may confirm the genuineness of
Joh 8:2-11, as the place where the woman was
no man laid hands on him,
&c.--(See on Joh 7:30). In the
dialogue that follows, the conflict waxes sharper on both
sides, till rising to its climax, they take up stones to
21-25. Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way,
&c.--(See on Joh 7:33).
22. Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself?--seeing
something more in His words than before (
Joh 7:35), but their question more malignant and
23. Ye are from beneath; I am from above--contrasting
Himself, not as in
Joh 3:31, simply with earthborn messengers of
God, but with men sprung from and breathing an
opposite element from His, which rendered it impossible
that He and they should have any present fellowship, or
dwell eternally together. (Again see on
Joh 7:33; also see on Joh 8:44).
24. if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your
sins--They knew well enough what He meant (
Mr 13:6, Greek; compare
Mt 24:5). But He would not, by speaking it out, give
them the materials for a charge for which they were
watching. At the same time, one is irresistibly reminded by
such language, so far transcending what is becoming in
men, of those ancient declarations of the God of
Israel, "I AM HE" (
De 32:39; Isa 43:10, 13; 46:4; 48:12). See on Joh 6:20.
25. Who art thou?--hoping thus to extort an explicit
answer; but they are disappointed.
26, 27. I have many things to say and to judge of you; but
he that sent me is true, &c.--that is, I could, and at
the fitting time, will say and judge many things of you
(referring perhaps to the work of the Spirit which is for
judgment as well as salvation,
Joh 16:8), but what I do say is just the message My
Father hath given Me to deliver.
28-30. When ye have lifted up the Son of man--The plainest
intimation He had yet given in public of the
manner and the authors of His death.
then shall ye know that I am
he, &c.--that is, find out, or have
sufficient evidence, how true was all He said, though they
would be far from owning it.
29. the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always
those things that please him, &c.--that is, To you, who
gnash upon Me with your teeth, and frown down all open
appearance for Me, I seem to stand uncountenanced and
alone; but I have a sympathy and support transcending all
human applause; I came hither to do My Father's will,
and in the doing of it have not ceased to please Him;
therefore is He ever by Me with His approving smile, His
cheering words, His supporting arm.
30. As he spake these words, many believed on him--Instead
of wondering at this, the wonder would be if words of such
unearthly, surpassing grandeur could be uttered
without captivating some that heard them. And just
as "all that sat in the council" to try Stephen
"saw his face"--though expecting nothing
but death--"as it had been the face of an
Ac 6:15), so may we suppose that, full of the sweet
supporting sense of His Father's presence, amidst the
rage and scorn of the rulers, a divine benignity beamed
from His countenance, irradiated the words that fell from
Him, and won over the candid "many" of His
31-33. Then said Jesus to those Jews who believed, If ye
continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed,
&c.--The impression produced by the last words of our
Lord may have become visible by some decisive movement, and
here He takes advantage of it to press on them
"continuance" in the faith, since then
only were they His real disciples (compare
Joh 15:3-8), and then should they experimentally
"know the truth," and "by the truth be made
33. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were
never in bondage to any man, &c.--Who said this? Not
surely the very class just spoken of as won over by His
divine words, and exhorted to continue in them. Most
interpreters seem to think so; but it is hard to ascribe
such a petulant speech to the newly gained disciples, even
in the lowest sense, much less persons so gained as
they were. It came, probably, from persons mixed up with
them in the same part of the crowd, but of a very different
spirit. The pride of the Jewish nation, even now
after centuries of humiliation, is the most striking
feature of their character. "Talk of freedom to
us? Pray when or to whom were we ever in bondage?"
This bluster sounds almost ludicrous from such a nation.
Had they forgotten their long and bitter bondage in Egypt?
their dreary captivity in Babylon? their present bondage to
the Roman yoke, and their restless eagerness to throw it
off? But probably they saw that our Lord pointed to
something else--freedom, perhaps, from the leaders of sects
or parties--and were not willing to allow their subjection
even to these. Our Lord, therefore, though He knew what
slaves they were in this sense, drives the ploughshare
somewhat deeper than this, to a bondage they little dreamt
34, 35. Whosoever committeth sin--that is, liveth in the
commission of it--(Compare
1Jo 3:8; Mt 7:23).
is the servant of sin--that is, the
bond-servant, or slave of it; for the
question is not about free service, but who are in
2Pe 2:19; Re 6:16). The great truth here expressed was
not unknown to heathen moralists; but it was applied only
to vice, for they were total strangers to what in revealed
religion is called sin. The thought of slaves
and freemen in the house suggests to our Lord a
35. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever, but
the Son abideth ever--that is, "And if your connection
with the family of God be that of BOND-SERVANTS, ye have no
natural tie to the house; your tie is essentially
uncertain and precarious. But the SON'S
relationship to the FATHER is a natural and
essential one; it is an indefeasible tie; His abode in
it is perpetual and of right: That is My
relationship, My tie: If, then, ye would have your
connection with God's family made real, rightful,
permanent, ye must by the Son be manumitted and
adopted as sons and daughters of the Lord
Almighty." In this sublime statement there is no doubt
a subordinate allusion to
Ge 21:10, "Cast out this bondwoman and
her son, for the son of this bond-woman shall not be
heir with my son, with Isaac." (Compare
37-41. ye seek to kill me--He had said this to their face
before: He now repeats it, and they do not deny it; yet are
they held back, as by some marvellous spell--it was the awe
which His combined dignity, courage, and benignity struck
because my word hath no place in
you--When did ever human prophet so speak of His
words? They tell us of "the word of the Lord"
coming to them. But here is One who holds up "His
word" as that which ought to find entrance and abiding
room for itself in the souls of all who hear it.
38. my Father . . . your father--(See on Joh 8:23).
39. If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the
works of Abraham--He had just said He "knew they were
Abraham's children," that is, according to the
flesh; but the children of his faith and
holiness they were not, but the reverse.
40. this did not Abraham--In so doing ye act in direct
opposition to him.
41. We be not born of fornication . . . we have
one Father, God--meaning, as is generally allowed, that
they were not an illegitimate race in point of
religion, pretending only to be God's people, but
were descended from His own chosen Abraham.
42, 43. If God were your Father, ye would love me--"If
ye had anything of His moral image, as children have their
father's likeness, ye would love Me, for I am
immediately of Him and directly from Him." But
"My speech" (meaning His peculiar style of
expressing Himself on these subjects) is unintelligible to
you because ye cannot take in the truth which it conveys.
44. Ye are of your father the devil--"This is one of
the most decisive testimonies to the objective
(outward) personality of the devil. It is quite
impossible to suppose an accommodation to Jewish views, or
a metaphorical form of speech, in so solemn an assertion as
the lusts of your father--his impure,
malignant, ungodly propensities, inclinations,
ye will do--are willing to do; not of
any blind necessity of nature, but of pure
He was a murderer from the
beginning--The reference is not to Cain (as LOCKE,
DE WETTE, ALFORD, &c.), but to Adam [GROTIUS,
CALVIN, MEYER, LUTHARDT, &c.]. The death of the human
race, in its widest sense, is ascribed to the murderous
seducer of our race.
and abode not in the truth--As,
strictly speaking, the word means "abideth," it
has been denied that the fall of Satan from a former
holy state is here expressed [LOCKE, &c.], and some
superior interpreters think it only implied
[OLSHAUSEN, &c.]. But though the form of the
thought is present--not past--this is to express the
important idea, that his whole character and activity are
just a continual aberration from his own original truth
or rectitude; and thus his fall is not only the
implied basis of the thought, but part of the
statement itself, properly interpreted and brought
no truth in him--void of all that
holy, transparent rectitude which, as His creature, he
When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of
his own--perhaps his own resources, treasures (
Mt 12:35) [ALFORD]. (The word is plural). It
means that he has no temptation to it from without;
it is purely self-begotten, springing from a nature
which is nothing but obliquity.
the father of it--that is, of lying:
all the falsehood in the world owes its existence to him.
What a verse is this! It holds up the devil (1) as the
murderer of the human race; but as this is meant here in
the more profound sense of spiritual death, it holds
him up, (2) as the spiritual parent of this fallen human
family, communicating to his offspring his own evil
passions and universal obliquity, and stimulating these
into active exercise. But as there is "a stronger than
he," who comes upon him and overcomes him (
Lu 11:21, 22), it is only such as "love the
darkness," who are addressed as children of the devil
Mt 13:38; 1Jo 3:8-10).
45-47. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me
not--not although, but just because He did
so, for the reason given in the former verse. Had He been
less true they would have hailed Him more readily.
46. Which of you convinceth me of
sin--"Convicteth," bringeth home a charge of sin.
Glorious dilemma! "Convict Me of sin, and reject Me:
If not, why stand ye out against My claims?" Of
course, they could only be supposed to impeach His
life; but in One who had already passed through
unparalleled complications, and had continually to deal
with friends and foes of every sort and degree, such a
challenge thrown wide among His bitterest enemies, can
amount to nothing short of a claim to absolute
48-51. Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast
a devil?--What intense and virulent scorn! (See
Heb 12:3). The "say we not well" refers to
Joh 7:20. "A Samaritan" means more than
"no Israelite at all"; it means one who
pretended, but had no manner of claim to the
title--retorting perhaps, this denial of their true
descent from Abraham.
49. Jesus answered, I have not a devil--What calm dignity
is here! Verily, "when reviled, He reviled not
1Pe 2:23). Compare Paul (
Ac 26:25), "I am not mad," &c. He adds
not, "Nor am I a Samaritan," that He might not
even seem to partake of their contempt for a race that had
already welcomed Him as the Christ, and began to be blessed
I honour my Father, and ye do
dishonour me--the language of wounded feeling. But
the interior of His soul at such moments is only to
be seen in such prophetic utterances as these, "For
thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face;
I am become a stranger unto my brethren, an alien
unto my mother's children. For the zeal of thine house
hath eaten me up, and the reproaches of them that
reproached thee are fallen upon me" (
50. I seek not mine own glory: there is one that
seeketh--that is, evidently, "that seeketh My
glory"; requiring "all men to honor
the Son even as they honor the Father"; judicially
treating him "who honoreth not the Son as honoring
not the Father that hath sent Him" (
Joh 5:23; and compare
Mt 17:5); but giving to Him (
Joh 6:37) such as will yet cast their crowns before His
throne, in whom He "shall see of the travail of his
soul, and be satisfied" (
51. If a man keep my saying, he shall never see
death--Partly thus vindicating His lofty claims as Lord of
the kingdom of life everlasting, and, at the same time,
holding out even to His revilers the scepter of grace. The
word "keep" is in harmony with
Joh 8:31, "If ye continue in My word,"
expressing the permanency, as a living and paramount
principle, of that faith to which He referred:
"never see death," though virtually
uttered before (
Joh 5:24; 6:40, 47, 51), is the strongest and most
naked statement of a very glorious truth yet given. (In
Joh 11:26 it is repeated in nearly identical terms).
52, 53. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou
hast a devil, &c.--"Thou art now self-convicted;
only a demoniac could speak so; the most illustrious of our
fathers are dead, and Thou promisest exemption from death
to anyone who will keep Thy saying! pray, who art
54-56. If I honour myself, my honour is nothing,
&c.--(See on Joh 5:31, &c.).
55. I shall be a liar like unto you--now rising to the
summit of holy, naked severity, thereby to draw this long
dialogue to a head.
56. Abraham rejoiced to see my day, &c.--exulted, or
exceedingly rejoiced that he should see, he exulted to see
it, that is, by anticipation. Nay,
he saw it, and was
glad--he actually beheld it, to his joy. If this
mean no more than that he had a prophetic foresight of the
gospel-day--the second clause just repeating the first--how
could the Jews understand our Lord to mean that He
"had seen Abraham?" And if it mean that Abraham
was then beholding, in his disembodied spirit, the
incarnate Messiah [STIER, ALFORD, &c.], the words seem
very unsuitable to express it. It expresses something
past--"he saw My day, and was
glad," that is, surely while he lived. He seems
to refer to the familiar intercourse which Abraham had with
God, who is once and again in the history called
"the Angel of the Lord," and whom Christ
here identifies with Himself. On those occasions, Abraham
"saw ME" (OLSHAUSEN, though he thinks the
reference is to some unrecorded scene). If this be the
meaning, all that follows is quite natural.
57-59. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty
years old--"No inference can be drawn from this as to
the age of our Lord at the time as man. Fifty years was
with the Jews the completion of manhood"
and hast thou seen Abraham?--He had
said Abraham saw Him, as being his peculiar
privilege. They give the opposite turn to it--"Hast
Thou seen Abraham?" as an honor too great for
Him to pretend to.
58. Before Abraham was, I am--The words rendered
"was" and "am" are quite different. The
one clause means, "Abraham was brought into
being"; the other, "I exist." The
statement therefore is not that Christ came into
existence before Abraham did (as Arians affirm is the
meaning), but that He never came into being at all,
but existed before Abraham had a being; in other
words, existed before creation, or eternally
Joh 1:1). In that sense the Jews plainly understood
Him, since "then took they up stones to cast at
Him," just as they had before done when they saw
that He made Himself equal with God (
hid himself--(See on Lu 4:30).
Joh 9:1-41. THE OPENING OF THE EYES OF ONE BORN BLIND,
AND WHAT FOLLOWED ON IT.
1-5. as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from
birth--and who "sat begging" (
2. who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born
blind--not in a former state of existence, in which, as
respects the wicked, the Jews did not believe; but,
perhaps, expressing loosely that sin somewhere had
surely been the cause of this calamity.
3. Neither . . . this man, &c.--The cause was
neither in himself nor his parents, but, in order to the
manifestation of "the works of God," in his cure.
4. I must work the works of him that sent me, &c.--a
most interesting statement from the mouth of Christ;
intimating, (1) that He had a precise work to do upon
earth, with every particular of it arranged and laid out to
Him; (2) that all He did upon earth was just "the
works of God"--particularly "going about doing
good," though not exclusively by miracles; (3)
that each work had its precise time and place
in His programme of instructions, so to speak; hence, (4)
that as His period for work had definite termination, so by
letting any one service pass by its allotted time, the
whole would be disarranged, marred, and driven beyond its
destined period for completion; (5) that He acted ever
under the impulse of these considerations, as
man--"the night cometh when no man (or no one) can
work." What lessons are here for others, and what
encouragement from such Example!
5. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the
world--not as if He would cease, after that, to be so; but
that He must make full proof of His fidelity while His
earthly career lasted by displaying His glory. "As
before the raising of Lazarus (
Joh 11:25), He announces Himself as the Resurrection
and the Life, so now He sets Himself forth as the
source of the archetypal spiritual light, of which the
natural, now about to be conferred, is only a derivation
and symbol" [ALFORD].
6, 7. he spat on the ground, and made clay . . .
and he anointed the eyes of the blind man--These operations
were not so incongruous in their nature as might appear,
though it were absurd to imagine that they contributed in
the least degree to the effect which followed. (See
Mr 6:13 and see on Joh 7:33.)
7. Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, . . . Sent,
2Ki 5:10, 14). As the prescribed action was purely
symbolical in its design, so in connection with it the
Evangelist notices the symbolical name of the pool as in
this case bearing testimony to him who was sent to
do what it only symbolized. (See
Isa 8:6, where this same pool is used figuratively to
denote "the streams that make glad the city of
God," and which, humble though they be, betoken a
present God of Israel.)
8-15. The neighbours therefore . . . said, Is not
this he that sat and begged--Here are a number of details
to identify the newly seeing with the long-known blind
13. They brought to the Pharisees--sitting probably in
council, and chiefly of that sect (
Joh 7:47, 48).
16, 17. This man is not of God, &c.--(See on Joh 5:9; Joh
Others said, &c.--such as
Nicodemus and Joseph.
17. the blind man . . . said, He is a
prophet--rightly viewing the miracle as but a
"sign" of His prophetic commission.
18-23. the Jews did not believe . . . he had been
born blind . . . till they called the parents of
him that had received his sight--Foiled by the testimony of
the young man himself, they hope to throw doubt on the fact
by close questioning his parents, who, perceiving the snare
laid for them, ingeniously escape it by testifying simply
to the identity of their son, and his birth-blindness,
leaving it to himself, as a competent witness, to speak as
to the cure. They prevaricated, however, in saying they
"knew not who had opened his eyes," for
"they feared the Jews," who had come to an
understanding (probably after what is recorded,
Joh 7:50, &c.; but by this time well known), that
whoever owned Him as the Christ would be put out of the
synagogue--that is, not simply excluded, but
24-34. Give God the praise; we know that this man is a
sinner--not wishing him to own, even to the praise of God,
that a miracle had been wrought upon him, but to show more
regard to the honor of God than ascribe any such act to one
who was a sinner.
25. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or
no, &c.--Not that the man meant to insinuate any
doubt in his own mind on the point of His being "a
sinner," but as his opinion on such a point
would be of no consequence to others, he would speak only
to what he knew as fact in his own
26. Then said they . . . again, What did he to
thee? &c.--hoping by repeated questions to ensnare him,
but the youth is more than a match for them.
27. I have told you already . . . will ye also be
his disciples?--In a vein of keen irony he treats their
questions as those of anxious inquirers, almost ready for
discipleship! Stung by this, they retort upon him as
the disciple (and here they plainly were not wrong); for
themselves, they fall back upon Moses; about him
there could be no doubt; but who knew about this upstart?
30. The man answered, Herein is a marvellous thing, that ye
know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine
eyes--He had no need to say another word; but waxing bolder
in defense of his Benefactor, and his views brightening by
the very courage which it demanded, he puts it to them how
they could pretend inability to tell whether one who opened
the eyes of a man born blind was "of God" or
"a sinner"--from above or from beneath--and
proceeds to argue the case with remarkable power. So
irresistible was his argument that their rage burst forth
in a speech of intense Pharisaism, "Thou wast
altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach
us?"--thou, a base-born, uneducated, impudent
youth, teach us, the trained, constituted,
recognized guides of the people in the things of God! Out
31. they cast him out--judicially, no doubt, as well in
fact. The allusion to his being "born in sins"
seems a tacit admission of his being blind from birth--the
very thing they had been so unwilling to own. But rage and
enmity to truth are seldom consistent in their outbreaks.
The friends of this excommunicated youth, crowding around
him with their sympathy, would probably express surprise
that One who could work such a cure should be unable to
protect his patient from the persecution it had raised
against him, or should possess the power without using it.
Nor would it be strange if such thoughts should arise in
the youth's own mind. But if they did, it is certain,
from what follows, that they made no lodgment there,
conscious as he was that "whereas he was blind, now he
saw," and satisfied that if his Benefactor "were
not of God, He could do nothing" (
Joh 9:33). There was a word for him too, which, if
whispered in his ear from the oracles of God, would seem
expressly designed to describe his case, and prepare him
for the coming interview with his gracious Friend.
"Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at His
word. Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out
for My name's sake, said, Let the Lord be
glorified; BUT HE SHALL APPEAR TO YOUR JOY, and they
shall be ashamed" (
Isa 66:5). But how was He engaged to whom such noble
testimony had been given, and for whom such persecution had
been borne? Uttering, perhaps, in secret, "with strong
crying and tears," the words of the prophetic psalm,
"Let not them that wait on Thee, O Lord God of hosts,
be ashamed for my sake; let none that seek Thee be
confounded for my sake, O God of Israel; because for Thy
sake I have borne reproach . . . and the
reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon
Ps 69:6, 7, 9).
35-38. Jesus heard--that is, by intelligence brought
that they had cast him out; and when
he had found him--by accident? Not very likely. Sympathy in
that breast could not long keep aloof from its
he said unto him, Dost thou believe on
the Son of God?--A question stretching purposely beyond his
present attainments, in order the more quickly to lead
him--in his present teachable frame--into the highest
36. He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I may
believe on him?--"His reply is affirmative, and
believing by anticipation, promising faith as soon as Jesus
shall say who He is" [STIER].
37. Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him--the new
sense of sight having at that moment its highest exercise,
in gazing upon "the Light of the world."
38. he said, Lord, I believe: and he worshipped him--a
faith and a worship, beyond doubt, meant to
express far more than he would think proper to any human
Joh 9:17) --the unstudied, resistless expression,
probably of SUPREME faith and adoration, though without the
full understanding of what that implied.
39-41. Jesus said--perhaps at the same time, but after a
crowd, including some of the skeptical and scornful rulers,
had, on seeing Jesus talking with the healed youth,
hastened to the spot.
that they which see not might see,
&c.--rising to that sight of which the natural
vision communicated to the youth was but the symbol. (See
on Joh 9:5, and compare
that they which see might be made
blind--judicially incapable of apprehending and receiving
the truth, to which they have wilfully shut their eyes.
40. Are we blind also?--We, the constituted, recognized
guides of the people in spiritual things? pride and rage
prompting the question.
41. If ye were blind--wanted light to discern My claims,
and only waited to receive it.
ye should have no sin--none of the
guilt of shutting out the light.
ye say, We see; therefore your sin
remaineth--Your claim to possess light, while rejecting Me,
is that which seals you up in the guilt of unbelief.
This discourse seems plainly to be a continuation of the
closing verses of the ninth chapter. The figure was
familiar to the Jewish ear (from
Jer 23:1-40; Eze 34:1-31; Zec 11:1-17, &c.).
"This simple creature [the sheep] has this special
note among all animals, that it quickly hears the voice of
the shepherd, follows no one else, depends entirely on him,
and seeks help from him alone--cannot help itself, but is
shut up to another's aid" [L UTHER in STIER].
1, 2. He that entereth not by the door--the legitimate way
(without saying what that was, as yet).
into the sheepfold--the sacred
enclosure of God's true people.
climbeth up some other way--not
referring to the assumption of ecclesiastical office
without an external call, for those Jewish rulers,
specially aimed at, had this (
Mt 23:2), but to the want of a true spiritual
commission, the seal of heaven going along with the outward
authority; it is the assumption of the spiritual guidance
of the people without this that is meant.
2. he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the
sheep--a true, divinely recognized shepherd.
3. To him the porter openeth--that is, right of free
access is given, by order of Him to whom the sheep
belong; for it is better not to give the allusion a more
specific interpretation [CALVIN, MEYER, LUTHARDT].
and the sheep hear his voice--This and
all that follows, though it admits of important
application to every faithful shepherd of God's
flock, is in its direct and highest sense true only of
"the great Shepherd of the sheep," who in the
first five verses seems plainly, under the simple character
of a true shepherd, to be drawing His own portrait [LAMPE,
7-14. I am the door of the sheep--that is, the way
in to the fold, with all blessed privileges, both for
shepherds and sheep (compare
Joh 14:6; Eph 2:18).
8. All that ever came before me--the false prophets; not as
claiming the prerogatives of Messiah, but as perverters of
the people from the way of life, all pointing to Him
the sheep did not hear them--the
instinct of their divinely taught hearts preserving them
from seducers, and attaching them to the heaven-sent
prophets, of whom it is said that "the Spirit of
Christ was in them" (
9. by me if any man enter in--whether shepherd or
shall be saved--the great object of
the pastoral office, as of all the divine arrangements
and shall go in and out and find
pasture--in, as to a place of safety and
repose; out, as to "green pastures and still
Ps 23:2) for nourishment and refreshing, and all this
only transferred to another clime, and enjoyed in another
manner, at the close of this earthly scene (
10. I am come that they might have life, and
. . . more abundantly--not merely to
preserve but impart LIFE, and communicate it in
rich and unfailing exuberance. What a claim! Yet it is only
an echo of all His teaching; and He who uttered these and
like words must be either a blasphemer, all worthy of the
death He died, or "God with us"--there can be no
11. I am the good shepherd--emphatically, and, in the sense
intended, exclusively so (
Isa 40:11; Eze 34:23; 37:24; Zec 13:7).
the good shepherd giveth his life for
the sheep--Though this may be said of literal shepherds,
who, even for their brute flock, have, like David,
encountered "the lion and the bear" at the risk
of their own lives, and still more of faithful pastors who,
like the early bishops of Rome, have been the foremost to
brave the fury of their enemies against the flock committed
to their care; yet here, beyond doubt, it points to the
struggle which was to issue in the willing surrender of the
Redeemer's own life, to save His sheep from
12. an hireling . . . whose own the sheep are
not--who has no property, in them. By this He points
to His own peculiar relation to the sheep, the same as His
Father's, the great Proprietor and Lord of the flock,
who styles Him "My Shepherd, the Man that is My
Zec 13:7), and though faithful under-shepherds are so
in their Master's interest, that they feel a measure of
His own concern for their charge, the language is strictly
applicable only to "the Son over His own house"
seeth the wolf coming--not the
devil distinctively, as some take it [STIER, ALFORD,
&c.], but generally whoever comes upon the flock with
hostile intent, in whatever form: though the wicked one, no
doubt, is at the bottom of such movements
14. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep--in the
peculiar sense of
am known of mine--the soul's
response to the voice that has inwardly and efficaciously
called it; for of this mutual loving acquaintance ours is
the effect of His. "The Redeemer's
knowledge of us is the active element, penetrating
us with His power and life; that of believers is the
passive principle, the reception of His life and light.
In this reception, however, an assimilation of the soul to
the sublime object of its knowledge and love takes place;
and thus an activity, though a derived one, is unfolded,
which shows itself in obedience to His commands"
[OLSHAUSEN]. From this mutual knowledge Jesus rises to
another and loftier reciprocity of knowledge.
15-18. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the
Father--What claim to absolute equality with the Father
could exceed this? (See on Mt
and I lay down my life for the
sheep--How sublime this, immediately following the lofty
claim of the preceding clause! It is the riches and the
poverty of "the Word made flesh"--one glorious
Person reaching at once up to the Throne and down even to
the dust of death, "that we might live through
Him." A candid interpretation of the words,
"for the sheep," ought to go far to
establish the special relation of the vicarious death of
Christ to the Church.
16. other sheep I have . . . not of this fold:
them also I must bring--He means the perishing Gentiles,
already His "sheep" in the love of
His heart and the purpose of His grace to
"bring them" in due time.
they shall hear my voice--This is
not the language of mere foresight that they would believe,
but the expression of a purpose to draw them to Himself by
an inward and efficacious call, which would
infallibly issue in their spontaneous accession to
and there shall be one fold--rather
"one flock" (for the word for "fold,"
as in the foregoing verses, is quite different).
17. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my
life, &c.--As the highest act of the Son's love to
the Father was the laying down of His life for the sheep at
His "commandment," so the Father's love to
Him as His incarnate Son reaches its consummation,
and finds its highest justification, in that sublimest and
most affecting of all acts.
that I might take it again--His
resurrection-life being indispensable to the accomplishment
of the fruit of His death.
18. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down myself: I
have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it
again--It is impossible for language more plainly and
emphatically to express the absolute voluntariness
of Christ's death, such a voluntariness as it would be
manifest presumption in any mere creature to affirm
of his own death. It is beyond all doubt the language of
One who was conscious that His life was His own
(which no creature's is), and therefore His to
surrender or retain at will. Here lay the glory of
His sacrifice, that it was purely voluntary. The
claim of "power to take it again" is no less
important, as showing that His resurrection, though
ascribed to the Father, in the sense we shall presently
see, was nevertheless His own assertion of His own right
to life as soon as the purposes of His voluntary death
This commandment--to "lay down
His--life, that He might take it again."
have I received of my Father--So that
Christ died at once by "command" of His Father,
and by such a voluntary obedience to that command as has
made Him (so to speak) infinitely dear to the Father. The
necessity of Christ's death, in the light of
these profound sayings, must be manifest to all but the
19-21. There was a division . . . again among the
Jews for these sayings--the light and the darkness
revealing themselves with increasing clearness in the
separation of the teachable from the obstinately
prejudiced. The one saw in Him only "a devil and a
madman"; the other revolted at the thought that
such words could come from one possessed, and sight be
given to the blind by a demoniac; showing clearly that a
deeper impression had been made upon them than their words
Joh 10:22-42. DISCOURSE AT THE FEAST OF
DEDICATION--FROM THE FURY OF HIS ENEMIES JESUS ESCAPES
BEYOND JORDAN, WHERE MANY BELIEVE ON HIM.
22, 23. it was . . . the feast of the
dedication--celebrated rather more than two months
after the feast of tabernacles, during which intermediate
period our Lord seems to have remained in the neighborhood
of Jerusalem. It was instituted by Jude Maccabeus, to
commemorate the purification of the temple from the
profanations to which it had been subjected by Antiochus
Epiphanes 165 B.C., and kept for eight days, from the
twenty-fifth Chisleu (December), the day on which Judas
began the first joyous celebration of it (1 Maccabees
4:52,56,59; and JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 7.7.7).
it was winter--implying some
23. Jesus walked . . . in Solomon's
porch--for shelter. This portico was on the east side of
the temple, and JOSEPHUS says it was part of the original
structure of Solomon [Antiquities, 20.9.7].
24. Then came the Jews--the rulers. (See on Joh 1:19).
How long dost thou make us to
doubt?--"hold us in suspense"
If thou be the Christ, tell us
plainly--But when the plainest evidence of it was
resisted, what weight could a mere assertion of it
26. ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I
said--referring to the whole strain of the Parable of the
Joh 10:1, &c.).
27-30. My sheep hear my voice, &c.--(See on Joh 10:8).
28. I give unto them eternal life--not "will give
them"; for it is a present gift. (See on Joh 3:36; Joh 5:24).
It is a very grand utterance, couched in the language of
29. My Father, which gave them me--(See on Joh 6:37-39).
is greater than all--with whom no
adverse power can contend. It is a general expression of an
admitted truth, and what follows shows for what purpose it
was uttered, "and none is able to pluck them out of My
Father's hand." The impossibility of true
believers being lost, in the midst of all the temptations
which they may encounter, does not consist in their
fidelity and decision, but is founded upon the power of
God. Here the doctrine of predestination is presented
in its sublime and sacred aspect; there is a predestination
of the holy, which is taught from one end of the Scriptures
to the other; not, indeed, of such a nature that an
"irresistible grace" compels the opposing
will of man (of course not), but so that that will of man
which receives and loves the commands of God is
produced only by God's grace (OLSHAUSEN--a
testimony all the more valuable, being given in spite of
30. I and my Father are one--Our language admits not of the
precision of the original in this great saying.
"Are" is in the masculine
gender--"we (two persons) are"; while
"one" is neuter--"one
thing." Perhaps "one interest"
expresses, as nearly as may be, the purport of the saying.
There seemed to be some contradiction between His saying
they had been given by His Father into His own
hands, out of which they could not be plucked, and then
saying that none could pluck them out of His
Father's hands, as if they had not been given out
of them. "Neither have they," says He;
"though He has given them to Me, they are as much in
His own almighty hands as ever--they cannot be, and
when given to Me they are not, given away from Himself; for
HE AND I HAVE ALL IN COMMON." Thus it will be seen,
that, though oneness of essence is not the precise
thing here affirmed, that truth is the basis of what is
affirmed, without which it would not be true. And
AUGUSTINE was right in saying the "We are"
condemns the Sabellians (who denied the
distinction of Persons in the Godhead), while the
"one" (as explained) condemns the
Arians (who denied the unity of their essence).
31. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him--and
for precisely the same thing as before (
Joh 8:58, 59).
32. Many good works have I showed you--that is, works of
pure benevolence (as in
Ac 10:38, "Who went about doing good,"
from my Father--not so much by His
power, but as directly commissioned by Him to do
them. This He says to meet the imputation of
unwarrantable assumption of the divine prerogatives
for which of those works do ye stone
me?--"are ye stoning (that is, going to stone)
33. for a blasphemy--whose legal punishment was stoning (
thou, being a man--that is, a man
makest thyself God--Twice before they
understood Him to advance the same claim, and both times
they prepared themselves to avenge what they took to be the
insulted honor of God, as here, in the way directed by
their law (
Joh 5:18; 8:59).
34-36. Is it not written in your law--in
Ps 82:6, respecting judges or magistrates.
Ye are gods--being the official
representatives and commissioned agents of God.
35, 36. If he called them gods unto whom the word of God
came . . . Say ye of him whom the Father hath
sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest--The
whole force of this reasoning, which has been but in part
seized by the commentators, lies in what is said of the two
parties compared. The comparison of Himself with
mere men, divinely commissioned, is intended to show (as
NEANDER well expresses it) that the idea of a communication
of the Divine Majesty to human nature was by no means
foreign to the revelations of the Old Testament; but there
is also a contrast between Himself and all merely
human representatives of God--the one "sanctified
by the Father and sent into the world"; the other,
"to whom the word of God (merely)
came," which is expressly designed to prevent His
being massed up with them as only one of many human
officials of God. It is never said of Christ that
"the word of the Lord came to Him"; whereas this
is the well-known formula by which the divine commission,
even to the highest of mere men, is expressed, as
John the Baptist (
Lu 3:2). The reason is that given by the Baptist
himself (see on Joh 3:31). The
contrast is between those "to whom the word of God
came"--men of the earth, earthy, who were merely
privileged to get a divine message to utter (if
prophets), or a divine office to discharge (if
judges)--and "Him whom (not being of the earth at all)
the Father sanctified (or set apart), and sent
into the world," an expression never used of
any merely human messenger of God, and used only of
because, I said, I am the Son of
God--It is worthy of special notice that our Lord had
not said, in so many words, that He was the Son of God,
on this occasion. But He had said what beyond doubt
amounted to it--namely, that He gave His sheep eternal
life, and none could pluck them out of His hand; that He
had got them from His Father, in whose hands, though given
to Him, they still remained, and out of whose hand none
could pluck them; and that they were the indefeasible
property of both, inasmuch as "He and His Father
were one." Our Lord considers all this as just saying
of Himself, "I am the Son of God"--one
nature with Him, yet mysteriously of Him. The
Joh 10:35), "and the Scripture cannot be
broken," referring to the terms used of magistrates in
the eighty-second Psalm, has an important bearing on the
authority of the living oracles. "The
Scripture, as the expressed will of the unchangeable God,
is itself unchangeable and indissoluble" [OLSHAUSEN].
37-39. though ye believe not me, believe the works--There
was in Christ's words, independently of any miracles, a
self-evidencing truth, majesty and grace, which those who
had any spiritual susceptibility were unable to resist (
Joh 7:46; 8:30). But, for those who wanted this,
"the works" were a mighty help. When these
failed, the case was desperate indeed.
that ye may know and believe that the
Father is in me, and I in him--thus reiterating His claim
to essential oneness with the Father, which He had
only seemed to soften down, that He might calm their
rage and get their ear again for a moment.
39. Therefore they sought again to take him--true to their
original understanding of His words, for they saw perfectly
well that He meant to "make Himself God"
throughout all this dialogue.
he escaped out of their hand--(See on
40-42. went away again beyond Jordan . . . the
place where John at first baptized--(See on Joh 1:28).
41. many resorted to him--on whom the ministry of the
Baptist had left permanent impressions.
John did no miracle, but all things
John spake of this man were true--what they now heard and
saw in Jesus only confirming in their minds the divinity of
His forerunner's mission, though unaccompanied by any
of His Master's miracles. And thus, "many believed
on Him there."
Joh 11:1-46. LAZARUS RAISED FROM THE DEAD--THE
CONSEQUENCES OF THIS.
1. of Bethany--at the east side of Mount Olivet.
the town of Mary and her sister
Martha--thus distinguishing it from the other Bethany,
"beyond Jordan." (See on Joh
2. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment,
&c.--This, though not recorded by our Evangelist till
Joh 12:3, was so well known in the teaching of all the
churches, according to our Lord's prediction (
Mt 26:13), that it is here alluded to by anticipation,
as the most natural way of identifying her; and she is
first named, though the younger, as the more distinguished
of the two. She "anointed THE LORD," says the
Evangelist--led doubtless to the use of this term here, as
he was about to exhibit Him illustriously as the Lord of
3-5. his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, he whom thou
lovest is sick--a most womanly appeal, yet how reverential,
to the known affection of her Lord for the patient. (See
Joh 11:5, 11). "Those whom Christ loves are no
more exempt than others from their share of earthly trouble
and anguish: rather are they bound over to it more
4. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not
unto death--to result in death.
but for the glory of God, that the Son
of God may be glorified thereby--that is, by this glory of
God. (See Greek.) Remarkable language this, which
from creature lips would have been intolerable. It means
that the glory of GOD manifested in the resurrection of
dead Lazarus would be shown to be the glory,
personally and immediately, of THE SON.
5. Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus--what a
picture!--one that in every age has attracted the
admiration of the whole Christian Church. No wonder that
those miserable skeptics who have carped at the ethical
system of the Gospel, as not embracing private friendships
in the list of its virtues, have been referred to the
Saviour's peculiar regard for this family as a
triumphant refutation, if such were needed.
6. When he heard he was sick, he abode two days still
. . . where he was--at least twenty-five miles
off. Beyond all doubt this was just to let things come to
their worst, in order to display His glory. But how trying,
meantime, to the faith of his friends, and how unlike the
way in which love to a dying friend usually shows itself,
on which it is plain that Mary reckoned. But the ways of
divine are not as the ways of human love.
Often they are the reverse. When His people are sick, in
body or spirit; when their case is waxing more and more
desperate every day; when all hope of recovery is about to
expire--just then and therefore it is that "He
abides two days still in the same place where He
is." Can they still hope against hope? Often they
do not; but "this is their infirmity." For it is
His chosen style of acting. We have been well taught it,
and should not now have the lesson to learn. From
the days of Moses was it given sublimely forth as the
character of His grandest interpositions, that "the
Lord will judge His people and repent Himself for His
servants"--when He seeth that their power is
7-10. Let us go into Judea again--He was now in Perea,
8. His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of
late sought, &c.--literally, "were (just) now
seeking" "to stone thee" (
goest thou thither again?--to
certain death, as
Joh 11:16 shows they thought.
9. Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the
day?--(See on Joh 9:4). Our
Lord's day had now reached its eleventh hour, and
having till now "walked in the day," He would not
mistime the remaining and more critical part of His
work, which would be as fatal, He says, as omitting it
altogether; for "if a man (so He speaks,
putting Himself under the same great law of duty as all
other men--if a man) walk in the night, he stumbleth,
because there is no light in him."
11-16. Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may
wake him out of sleep--Illustrious title! "Our
friend Lazarus." To Abraham only is it
accorded in the Old Testament, and not till after his
2Ch 20:7; Isa 41:8), to which our attention is called
in the New Testament (
Jas 2:23). When Jesus came in the flesh, His forerunner
applied this name, in a certain sense, to himself (
Joh 3:29); and into the same fellowship the Lord's
chosen disciples are declared to have come (
Joh 15:13-15). "The phrase here employed,
"our friend Lazarus," means more than "he
whom Thou lovest" in
Joh 11:3, for it implies that Christ's affection
was reciprocated by Lazarus" [LAMPE]. Our Lord
had been told only that Lazarus was "sick." But
the change which his two days' delay had produced is
here tenderly alluded to. Doubtless, His spirit was all the
while with His dying, and now dead "friend." The
symbol of "sleep" for death is common to
all languages, and familiar to us in the Old Testament. In
the New Testament, however, a higher meaning is put into
it, in relation to believers in Jesus (see on 1Th 4:14), a sense hinted at, and
Ps 17:15 [LUTHARDT]; and the "awaking out of
sleep" acquires a corresponding sense far transcending
12. if he sleep, he shall do well--literally, "be
preserved"; that is, recover. "Why then go to
14. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is
dead--Says BENGEL beautifully, "Sleep is the death of
the saints, in the language of heaven; but this language
the disciples here understood not; incomparable is the
generosity of the divine manner of discoursing, but such is
the slowness of men's apprehension that Scripture often
has to descend to the more miserable style of human
15. I am glad for your sakes I was not there--This
certainly implies that if He had been present, Lazarus
would not have died; not because He could not have resisted
the importunities of the sisters, but because, in presence
of the personal Life, death could not have reached His
friend [LUTHARDT]. "It is beautifully congruous to the
divine decorum that in presence of the Prince of Life no
one is ever said to have died" [BENGEL].
that ye may believe--This is added to
explain His "gladness" at not having been
present. His friend's death, as such, could not have
been to Him "joyous"; the sequel shows it was
"grievous"; but for them it was safe (
16. Thomas, . . . called Didymus--or "the
Let us also go, that we may die with
him--lovely spirit, though tinged with some sadness, such
as reappears at
Joh 14:5, showing the tendency of this disciple to take
the dark view of things. On a memorable occasion
this tendency opened the door to downright, though but
momentary, unbelief (
Joh 20:25). Here, however, though alleged by many
interpreters there is nothing of the sort. He perceives
clearly how this journey to Judea will end, as respects his
Master, and not only sees in it peril to themselves, as
they all did, but feels as if he could not and cared not to
survive his Master's sacrifice to the fury of His
enemies. It was that kind of affection which, living only
in the light of its Object, cannot contemplate, or has no
heart for life, without it.
17-19. when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the
grave four days--If he died on the day the tidings came of
his illness--and was, according to the Jewish custom,
buried the same day (see JAHN'S
Joh 11:39; Ac 5:5, 6, 10) --and if Jesus, after two
days' further stay in Perea, set out on the day
following for Bethany, some ten hours' journey, that
would make out the four days; the first and last being
incomplete [M EYER].
18. Bethany was nigh Jerusalem, about fifteen
furlongs--rather less than two miles; mentioned to explain
the visits of sympathy noticed in the following words,
which the proximity of the two places facilitated.
19. many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary to comfort
them--Thus were provided, in a most natural way, so many
witnesses of the glorious miracle that was to follow, as to
put the fact beyond possible question.
20-22. Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming,
went and met him--true to the energy and
activity of her character, as seen in
Lu 10:38-42. (See on Lu
but Mary sat . . . in the
house--equally true to her placid character. These
undesigned touches not only charmingly illustrate the
minute historic fidelity of both narratives, but
their inner harmony.
21. Then said Martha . . . Lord, if thou hadst
been here, my brother had not died--As Mary afterwards said
the same thing (
Joh 11:32), it is plain they had made this very natural
remark to each other, perhaps many times during these four
sad days, and not without having their confidence in His
love at times overclouded. Such trials of faith, however,
are not peculiar to them.
22. But I know that even now, &c.--Energetic characters
are usually sanguine, the rainbow of hope peering through
the drenching cloud.
whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God
will give it thee--that is "even to the restoration of
my dead brother to life," for that plainly is her
meaning, as the sequel shows.
23-27. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise
again--purposely expressing Himself in general terms, to
draw her out.
24. Martha said, . . . I know that he shall rise
again . . . at the last day--"But are we
never to see him in life till then?"
25. Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the
life--"The whole power to restore, impart, and
maintain life, resides in Me." (See on Joh 1:4; Joh 5:21).
What higher claim to supreme divinity than this grand
saying can be conceived?
he that believeth in me, though
. . . dead . . . shall he live--that
is, The believer's death shall be swallowed up in life,
and his life shall never sink into death. As death comes by
sin, it is His to dissolve it; and as life flows through
His righteousness, it is His to communicate and eternally
maintain it (
Ro 5:21). The temporary separation of soul and body is
here regarded as not even interrupting, much less
impairing, the new and everlasting life imparted by Jesus
to His believing people.
Believest thou this?--Canst thou take
27. Yea, . . . I believe that thou art the
Christ, the Son of God, &c.--that is, And having
such faith in Thee, I can believe all which that
comprehends. While she had a glimmering perception that
Resurrection, in every sense of the word, belonged to the
Messianic office and Sonship of Jesus, she means, by this
way of expressing herself, to cover much that she felt her
ignorance of--as no doubt belonging to Him.
28-32. The Master is come and calleth for thee--The
narrative does not give us this interesting detail, but
Martha's words do.
29. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly--affection
for her Lord, assurance of His sympathy, and His hope of
interposition, putting a spring into her distressed spirit.
31. The Jews . . . followed her . . .
to the grave--Thus casually were provided witnesses
of the glorious miracle that followed, not
prejudiced, certainly, in favor of Him who
to weep there--according to Jewish
practice, for some days after burial.
fell at his feet--more impassioned
than her sister, though her words were fewer. (See on Joh 11:21).
33-38. When Jesus . . . saw her weeping, and the
Jews . . . weeping . . . he groaned in
the spirit--the tears of Mary and her friends acting
sympathetically upon Jesus, and drawing forth His emotions.
What a vivid and beautiful outcoming of His
"real" humanity! The word here rendered
"groaned" does not mean "sighed" or
"grieved," but rather "powerfully checked
his emotion"--made a visible effort to restrain those
tears which were ready to gush from His eyes.
and was troubled--rather,
"troubled himself" (Margin); referring
probably to this visible difficulty of repressing His
34. Where have ye laid him? . . . Lord, come and
see--Perhaps it was to retain composure enough to ask this
question, and on receiving the answer to proceed with them
to the spot, that He checked Himself.
35. Jesus wept--This beautifully conveys the sublime
brevity of the two original words; else "shed
tears" might have better conveyed the difference
between the word here used and that twice employed in
Joh 11:33, and there properly rendered
"weeping," denoting the loud wail for the dead,
while that of Jesus consisted of silent tears. Is it
for nothing that the Evangelist, some sixty years
after it occurred, holds up to all ages with such touching
brevity the sublime spectacle of the Son of God in
tears? What a seal of His perfect oneness with us in
the most redeeming feature of our stricken humanity! But
was there nothing in those tears beyond sorrow for human
suffering and death? Could these effects move Him
without suggesting the cause? Who can doubt that in
His ear every feature of the scene proclaimed that stern
law of the Kingdom, "The wages of sin is
Ro 6:23), and that this element in His visible emotion
underlay all the rest?
36. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!--We thank
you, O ye visitors from Jerusalem, for this spontaneous
testimony to the human tenderness of the Son of God.
37. And--rather, "But."
some . . . said, Could not
this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused
that this man should not have died?--The former exclamation
came from the better-feeling portion of the spectators;
this betokens a measure of suspicion. It hardly goes the
length of attesting the miracle on the blind man; but
"if (as everybody says) He did that, why could He not
also have kept Lazarus alive?" As to the restoration
of the dead man to life, they never so much as thought of
it. But this disposition to dictate to divine power, and
almost to peril our confidence in it upon its doing our
bidding, is not confined to men of no faith.
38. Jesus again groaning in himself--that is, as at
Joh 11:33, checked or repressed His rising feelings, in
the former instance, of sorrow, here of righteous
indignation at their unreasonable unbelief; (compare
Mr 3:5) [WEBSTER and WILKINSON]. But here, too,
struggling emotion was deeper, now that His eye was about
to rest on the spot where lay, in the still horrors of
death, His "friend."
a cave--the cavity, natural or
artificial, of a rock. This, with the number of condoling
visitors from Jerusalem, and the costly ointment with which
Mary afterwards anointed Jesus at Bethany, all go to show
that the family was in good circumstances.
39-44. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone--spoken to the
attendants of Martha and Mary; for it was a work of no
little labor [GROTIUS]. According to the Talmudists, it was
forbidden to open a grave after the stone was placed upon
it. Besides other dangers, they were apprehensive of legal
impurity by contact with the dead. Hence they avoided
coming nearer a grave than four cubits [MAIMONIDES in
LAMPE]. But He who touched the leper, and the bier of the
widow of Nain's son, rises here also above these Judaic
memorials of evils, every one of which He had come to roll
away. Observe here what our Lord did Himself, and what
He made others do. As Elijah himself repaired the altar
on Carmel, arranged the wood, cut the victim, and placed
the pieces on the fuel, but made the by-standers fill the
surrounding trench with water, that no suspicion might
arise of fire having been secretly applied to the pile (
1Ki 18:30-35); so our Lord would let the most skeptical
see that, without laying a hand on the stone that covered
His friend, He could recall him to life. But what could be
done by human hand He orders to be done, reserving only to
Himself what transcended the ability of all
Martha, the sister of . . .
the dead--and as such the proper guardian of the precious
remains; the relationship being here mentioned to
account for her venturing gently to remonstrate against
their exposure, in a state of decomposition, to eyes that
had loved him so tenderly in life.
Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he
hath been dead four days--(See on Joh
11:17). It is wrong to suppose from this (as LAMPE and
others do) that, like the by-standers, she had not thought
of his restoration to life. But the glimmerings of hope
which she cherished from the first (
Joh 11:22), and which had been brightened by what Jesus
said to her (
Joh 11:23-27), had suffered a momentary eclipse on the
proposal to expose the now sightless corpse. To such
fluctuations all real faith is subject in dark hours.
(See, for example, the case of Job).
40. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that if
thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of
God?--He had not said those very words, but this was the
scope of all that He had uttered to her about His
life-giving power (
Joh 11:23, 25, 26); a gentle yet emphatic and most
instructive rebuke: "Why doth the restoration of life,
even to a decomposing corpse, seem hopeless in the presence
of the Resurrection and the Life? Hast thou yet to learn
that 'if thou canst believe, all things are possible to
him that believeth?'" (
41. Jesus lifted up his eyes--an expression marking His
calm solemnity. (Compare
Father, I thank thee that thou hast
heard me--rather, "heardest Me," referring to a
specific prayer offered by Him, probably on intelligence of
the case reaching Him (
Joh 11:3, 4); for His living and loving oneness with
the Father was maintained and manifested in the flesh, not
merely by the spontaneous and uninterrupted outgoing of
Each to Each in spirit, but by specific actings of faith
and exercises of prayer about each successive case as it
emerged. He prayed (says LUTHARDT well) not for what He
wanted, but for the manifestation of what He had; and
having the bright consciousness of the answer in the felt
liberty to ask it, and the assurance that it was at hand,
He gives thanks for this with a grand simplicity before
performing the act.
42. And--rather, "Yet."
I knew that thou hearest me always,
but because of the people that stand by I said it, that
they might believe that thou hast sent me--Instead of
praying now, He simply gives thanks for answer to prayer
offered ere He left Perea, and adds that His doing even
this, in the audience of the people, was not from any doubt
of the prevalency of His prayers in any case, but to show
the people that He did nothing without His Father, but
all by direct communication with Him.
43, 44. and when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud
voice--On one other occasion only did He this--on the
cross. His last utterance was a "loud cry"
Mt 27:50). "He shall not cry," said the
prophet, nor, in His ministry, did He. What a sublime
contrast is this "loud cry" to the magical
"whisperings" and "mutterings" of which
we read in
Isa 8:19; 29:4 (as GROTIUS remarks)! It is second only
to the grandeur of that voice which shall raise all the
Joh 5:28, 29; 1Th 4:16).
44. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him and let him go--Jesus
will no more do this Himself than roll away the stone. The
one was the necessary preparation for resurrection,
the other the necessary sequel to it. THE
LIFE-GIVING ACT ALONE HE RESERVES TO HIMSELF. So in the
quickening of the dead to spiritual life, human
instrumentality is employed first to prepare the way, and
then to turn it to account.
45, 46. many . . . which . . . had seen
. . . believed . . . But some
. . . went . . . to the Pharisees and
told them what Jesus had done--the two classes which
continually reappear in the Gospel history; nor is there
ever any great work of God which does not produce both.
"It is remarkable that on each of the three occasions
on which our Lord raised the dead, a large number of
persons was assembled. In two instances, the resurrection
of the widow's son and of Lazarus, these were all
witnesses of the miracle; in the third (of Jairus'
daughter) they were necessarily cognizant of it. Yet this
important circumstance is in each case only incidentally
noticed by the historians, not put forward or appealed to
as a proof of their veracity. In regard to this miracle, we
observe a greater degree of preparation, both in the
provident arrangement of events, and in our Lord's
actions and words than in any other. The preceding miracle
(cure of the man born blind) is distinguished from all
others by the open and formal investigation of its facts.
And both these miracles, the most public and best attested
of all, are related by John, who wrote long after the other
Evangelists" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
47-54. What do we? for this man doeth many
miracles--"While we trifle, 'this man,' by His
'many miracles,' will carry all before Him; the
popular enthusiasm will bring on a revolution, which will
precipitate the Romans upon us, and our all will go down in
one common ruin." What a testimony to the reality of
our Lord's miracles, and their resistless effect, from
His bitterest enemies!
51. Caiaphas . . . prophesied that Jesus should
die for that nation--He meant nothing more than that the
way to prevent the apprehended ruin of the nation was to
make a sacrifice of the Disturber of their peace. But in
giving utterance to this suggestion of political
expediency, he was so guided as to give forth a divine
prediction of deep significance; and God so ordered it that
it should come from the lips of the high priest for that
memorable year, the recognized head of God's visible
people, whose ancient office, symbolized by the Urim and
Thummim, was to decide in the last resort, all vital
questions as the oracle of the divine will.
52. and not for that nation only, &c.--These are the
Evangelist's words, not Caiaphas'.
53. they took council together to put him to
death--Caiaphas but expressed what the party was secretly
wishing, but afraid to propose.
Jesus . . . walked no more
openly among the Jews--How could He, unless He had wished
to die before His time?
near to the wilderness--of
a city called Ephraim--between
Jerusalem and Jericho.
55-57. passover . . . at hand . . .
many went . . . up . . . before the
passover, to purify themselves--from any legal uncleanness
which would have disqualified them from keeping the feast.
This is mentioned to introduce the graphic statement which
56. sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as
they stood in the temple--giving forth the various
conjectures and speculations about the probability of His
coming to the feast.
that he will not come--The form of
this question implies the opinion that He would
57. chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment
that if any knew where he were, he should show it, that
they might take him--This is mentioned to account for the
conjectures whether He would come, in spite of this
determination to seize Him.
1-8. six days before the passover--that is, on the sixth
day before it; probably after sunset on Friday
evening, or the commencement of the Jewish sabbath
preceding the passover.
2. Martha served--This, with what is afterwards said of
Mary's way of honoring her Lord, is so true to the
character in which those two women appear in
Lu 10:38-42, as to constitute one of the strongest and
most delightful confirmations of the truth of both
narratives. (See also on
Lazarus . . . sat at the
table--"Between the raised Lazarus and the healed
Mr 14:3), the Lord probably sits as between two
trophies of His glory" [STIER].
3. spikenard--or pure nard, a celebrated aromatic
anointed the feet of Jesus--and
"poured it on His head" (
Mt 26:7; Mr 14:3). The only use of this was to refresh
and exhilarate--a grateful compliment in the East, amidst
the closeness of a heated atmosphere, with many guests at a
feast. Such was the form in which Mary's love to
Christ, at so much cost to herself, poured itself out.
4. Judas . . . who should betray him--For the
reason why this is here mentioned, see on Mr 14:11.
5. three hundred pence--between nine and ten pounds
6. had the bag--the purse.
bare what was put therein--not, bare
it off by theft, though that he did; but simply, had charge
of its contents, was treasurer to Jesus and the Twelve. How
worthy of notice is this arrangement, by which an
avaricious and dishonest person was not only taken into the
number of the Twelve, but entrusted with the custody of
their little property! The purposes which this served are
obvious enough; but it is further noticeable, that the
remotest hint was never given to the eleven of His true
character, nor did the disciples most favored with the
intimacy of Jesus ever suspect him, till a few minutes
before he voluntarily separated himself from their
7. said Jesus, Let her alone, against the day of my burying
hath she done this--not that she thought of His burial,
much less reserved any of her nard to anoint her dead Lord.
But as the time was so near at hand when that office would
have to be performed, and she was not to have that
privilege even alter the spices were brought for the
Mr 16:1), He lovingly regards it as done now.
8. the poor always . . . with you--referring to
but me . . . not always--a
gentle hint of His approaching departure. He adds (
Mr 14:8), "She hath done what she
could," a noble testimony, embodying a principle
of immense importance. "Verily, I say unto you,
Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole
world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be
told for a memorial of her" (
Mt 26:13; Mr 14:9). "In the act of love done to
Him she had erected to herself an eternal monument, as
lasting as the Gospel, the eternal word of God. From
generation to generation this remarkable prophecy of the
Lord has been fulfilled; and even we, in explaining this
saying of the Redeemer, of necessity contribute to its
accomplishment" [O LSHAUSEN]. "Who but Himself
had the power to ensure to any work of man, even if
resounding in his own time through the whole earth, an
imperishable remembrance in the stream of history? Behold
once more here, the majesty of His royal judicial supremacy
in the government of the world, in this, Verily I say unto
you" [S TIER]. Beautiful are the lessons here: (1)
Love to Christ transfigures the humblest services. All,
indeed, who have themselves a heart value its least
outgoings beyond the most costly mechanical performances;
but how does it endear the Saviour to us to find Him
endorsing the principle as His own standard in judging of
character and deeds!
What though in poor and humble guise
Thou here didst sojourn,
Yet from Thy glory in the skies
Our earthly gold Thou didst not
For Love delights to bring her best,
And where Love is, that offering evermore is
Love on the Saviour's dying head
Her spikenard drops unblam'd may
May mount His cross, and wrap Him dead
In spices from the golden shore.
(2) Works of utility should never be set in
opposition to the promptings of self-sacrificing
love, and the sincerity of those who do so is to be
suspected. Under the mask of concern for the poor at home,
how many excuse themselves from all care of the perishing
heathen abroad. (3) Amidst conflicting duties, that which
our "hand (presently) findeth to do" is to
be preferred, and even a less duty only to be done
now to a greater that can be done at any time.
(4) "If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted
according to that a man hath, and not according to that he
hath not" (
2Co 8:12). --"She hath done what she could"
Mr 14:8). (5) As Jesus beheld in spirit the universal
diffusion of His Gospel, while His lowest depth of
humiliation was only approaching, so He regards the
facts of His earthly history as constituting the
substance of this Gospel, and the relation of them as
just the "preaching of this Gospel." Not that
preachers are to confine themselves to a bare narration of
these facts, but that they are to make their whole
preaching turn upon them as its grand center, and derive
from them its proper vitality; all that goes before this in
the Bible being but the preparation for them, and
all that follows but the sequel.
9-11. Crowds of the Jerusalem Jews hastened to Bethany, not
so much to see Jesus, whom they knew to be there, as to see
dead Lazarus alive; and this, issuing in their accession to
Christ, led to a plot against the life of Lazarus also, as
the only means of arresting the triumphs of Jesus (see
Joh 12:19) --to such a pitch had these chief priests
come of diabolical determination to shut out the light from
themselves, and quench it from the earth!
12. On the next day--the Lord's day, or Sunday (see on
Joh 12:1); the tenth day of the
Jewish month Nisan, on which the paschal lamb was set apart
to be "kept up until the fourteenth day of the same
month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of
Israel were to kill it in the evening" (
Ex 12:3, 6). Even so, from the day of this solemn entry
into Jerusalem, "Christ our Passover" was
virtually set apart to be "sacrificed for us" (
16. when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that
these things were written of him, &c.--The Spirit,
descending on them from the glorified Saviour at Pentecost,
opened their eyes suddenly to the true sense of the Old
Testament, brought vividly to their recollection this and
other Messianic predictions, and to their unspeakable
astonishment showed them that they, and all the actors in
these scenes, had been unconsciously fulfilling those
Joh 12:20-36. SOME GREEKS DESIRE TO SEE JESUS--THE
DISCOURSE AND SCENE THEREUPON.
20-22. Greeks--Not Grecian Jews, but Greek proselytes to
the Jewish faith, who were wont to attend the annual
festivals, particularly this primary one, the
The same came therefore to Philip
. . . of Bethsaida--possibly as being from the
saying, Sir, we would see
Jesus--certainly in a far better sense than Zaccheus (
Lu 19:3). Perhaps He was then in that part of the
temple court to which Gentile proselytes had no access.
"These men from the west represent, at the end
of Christ's life, what the wise men from the
east represented at its beginning; but those come to
the cross of the King, even as these to His manger"
22. Philip . . . telleth Andrew--As follow
townsmen of Bethsaida (
Joh 1:44), these two seem to have drawn to each
Andrew and Philip tell Jesus--The
minuteness of these details, while they add to the graphic
force of the narrative, serves to prepare us for something
important to come out of this introduction.
23-26. Jesus answered them, The hour is come that the Son
of man should be glorified--that is, They would see Jesus,
would they? Yet a little moment, and they shall see Him so
as now they dream not of. The middle wall of partition that
keeps them out from the commonwealth of Israel is on the
eve of breaking down, "and I, if I be lifted up from
the earth, shall draw all men unto Me"; I see them
"flying as a cloud, and as doves to their
cotes"--a glorious event that will be for the Son of
man, by which this is to be brought about. It is His
death He thus sublimely and delicately alluded to. Lost
in the scenes of triumph which this desire of the Greeks to
see Him called up before His view, He gives no direct
answer to their petition for an interview, but sees the
cross which was to bring them gilded with glory.
24. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it
abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much
fruit--The necessity of His death is here brightly
expressed, and its proper operation and fruit--life
springing forth out of death--imaged forth by a
beautiful and deeply significant law of the vegetable
kingdom. For a double reason, no doubt, this was
uttered--to explain what he had said of His death, as the
hour of His own glorification, and to sustain His own
Spirit under the agitation which was mysteriously coming
over it in the view of that death.
25. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that
hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life
eternal--(See on Lu 9:24).
Did our Lord mean to exclude Himself from the operation of
the great principle here expressed--self-renunciation,
the law of self-preservation; and its converse,
self-preservation, the law of self-destruction? On the
contrary, as He became Man to exemplify this fundamental
law of the Kingdom of God in its most sublime form, so the
very utterance of it on this occasion served to sustain His
own Spirit in the double prospect to which He had just
26. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am,
there shall also my servant be: If any man serve me, him
will my Father honour--Jesus here claims the same
absolute subjection to Himself, as the law of men's
exaltation to honor, as He yielded to the Father.
27, 28. Now is my soul troubled--He means at the prospect
of His death, just alluded to. Strange view of the Cross
this, immediately after representing it as the hour of His
Joh 12:23). But the two views naturally meet, and blend
into one. It was the Greeks, one might say, that troubled
Him. Ah! they shall see Jesus, but to Him it shall
be a costly sight.
and what shall I say?--He is in a
strait betwixt two. The death of the cross was, and could
not but be, appalling to His spirit. But to shrink from
absolute subjection to the Father, was worse still. In
asking Himself, "What shall I say?" He seems as
if thinking aloud, feeling His way between two dread
alternatives, looking both of them sternly in the face,
measuring, weighing them, in order that the choice actually
made might be seen, and even by himself the more vividly
felt, to be a profound, deliberate, spontaneous
Father, save me from this hour--To
take this as a question--"Shall I say, Father, save
me," &c.--as some eminent editors and interpreters
do, is unnatural and jejune. It is a real petition, like
that in Gethsemane, "Let this cup pass from Me";
only whereas there He prefaces the prayer with an
"If it be possible," here He follows it up
with what is tantamount to that--"Nevertheless for
this cause came I unto this hour." The sentiment
conveyed, then, by the prayer, in both cases, is twofold:
(1) that only one thing could reconcile Him to the death of
the cross--its being His Father's will He should endure
it--and (2) that in this view of it He yielded Himself
freely to it. What He recoils from is not subjection to
His Father's will: but to show how tremendous a
self-sacrifice that obedience involved, He first asks
the Father to save Him from it, and then signifies how
perfectly He knows that He is there for the very purpose of
enduring it. Only by letting these mysterious words speak
their full meaning do they become intelligible and
consistent. As for those who see no bitter elements in
the death of Christ--nothing beyond mere dying--what
can they make of such a scene? and when they place it over
against the feelings with which thousands of His adoring
followers have welcomed death for His sake, how can they
hold Him up to the admiration of men?
28. Father, glorify thy name--by a present testimony.
I have both glorified it--referring
specially to the voice from heaven at His baptism,
and again at His transfiguration.
and will glorify it again--that is, in
the yet future scenes of His still deeper necessity;
although this promise was a present and sublime testimony,
which would irradiate the clouded spirit of the Son of man.
29-33. The people therefore that stood by, said, It
thundered; others, An angel spake to him--some hearing only
a sound, others an articulate, but to them unintelligible
30. Jesus . . . said, This voice came not because
of me, but for your sakes--that is, probably, to correct
the unfavorable impressions which His momentary agitation
and mysterious prayer for deliverance may have produced on
31. Now is the judgment of this world--the world that
"crucified the Lord of glory" (
1Co 2:8), considered as a vast and complicated kingdom
of Satan, breathing his spirit, doing his work, and
involved in his doom, which Christ's death by its hands
now shall the prince of this world be
cast out--How differently is that fast-approaching
"hour" regarded in the kingdoms of darkness and
of light! "The hour of relief; from the dread Troubler
of our peace--how near it is! Yet a little moment, and the
day is ours!" So it was calculated and felt in the one
region. "Now shall the prince of this world be cast
out," is a somewhat different view of the same event.
We know who was right. Though yet under a veil, He sees the
triumphs of the Cross in unclouded and transporting light.
32. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all
men unto me--The "I" here is emphatic--I, taking
the place of the world's ejected prince. "If
lifted up," means not only after that I have been
lifted up, but, through the virtue of that
uplifting. And truly, the death of the Cross, in all
its significance, revealed in the light, and borne in upon
the heart, by the power of the Holy Ghost, possesses an
attraction over the wide world--to civilized and savage,
learned and illiterate, alike--which breaks down all
opposition, assimilates all to itself, and forms out of the
most heterogeneous and discordant materials a kingdom of
surpassing glory, whose uniting principle is adoring
subjection "to Him that loved them." "Will
draw all men 'UNTO ME,'" says He. What lips
could venture to utter such a word but His, which
"dropt as an honeycomb," whose manner of speaking
was evermore in the same spirit of conscious equality with
33. This he said, signifying what death he should die--that
is, "by being lifted up from the earth" on
"the accursed tree" (
Joh 3:14; 8:28).
34. We have heard out of the law--the scriptures of the Old
Testament (referring to such places as
Ps 89:28, 29; 110:4; Da 2:44; 7:13, 14).
that Christ--the Christ "endureth
and how sayest thou, The Son of Man
must be lifted up, &c.--How can that consist with this
"uplifting?" They saw very well both that He was
holding Himself up as the Christ and a Christ to
die a violent death; and as that ran counter to all
their ideas of the Messianic prophecies, they were glad to
get this seeming advantage to justify their unyielding
35, 36. Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk
while ye have the light, &c.--Instead of answering
their question, He warns them, with mingled majesty and
tenderness, against trifling with their last brief
opportunity, and entreats them to let in the Light while
they have it in the midst of them, that they themselves
might be "light in the Lord." In this case, all
the clouds which hung around His Person and Mission would
speedily be dispelled, while if they continued to hate the
light, bootless were all His answers to their merely
speculative or captious questions. (See on Lu 13:23).
36. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide
himself from them--He who spake as never man spake, and
immediately after words fraught with unspeakable dignity
and love, had to "hide Himself" from His
auditors! What then must they have been? He retired,
probably to Bethany. (The parallels are:
Mt 21:17; Lu 21:37).
37-41. It is the manner of this Evangelist alone to record
his own reflections on the scenes he describes; but here,
having arrived at what was virtually the close of our
Lord's public ministry, he casts an affecting glance
over the fruitlessness of His whole ministry on the bulk of
the now doomed people.
though he had done so many
miracles--The word used suggests their nature as
well as number.
38. That the saying of Esaias . . . might be
fulfilled--This unbelief did not at all set aside the
purposes of God, but, on the contrary, fulfilled them.
39-40. Therefore they could not believe, because Esaias
said again, He hath blinded their eyes, that they should
not see, &c.--That this expresses a positive divine
act, by which those who wilfully close their eyes and
harden their hearts against the truth are judicially
shut up in their unbelief and impenitence, is admitted
by all candid critics [as OLSHAUSEN], though many of them
think it necessary to contend that this is in no way
inconsistent with the liberty of the human will, which of
course it is not.
41. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and
spake of him--a key of immense importance to the opening of
Isaiah's vision (
Isa 6:1-13), and all similar Old Testament
representations. "THE SON is the King Jehovah who
rules in the Old Testament and appears to the elect, as in
the New Testament THE SPIRIT, the invisible Minister of the
Son, is the Director of the Church and the Revealer in the
sanctuary of the heart" [O LSHAUSEN].
42, 43. among the chief rulers also--rather, "even of
the rulers"; such as Nicodemus and Joseph.
because of the Pharisees--that is, the
leaders of the sects; for they were of it
put out of the synagogue--See
Joh 9:22, 34.
43. they loved the praise of men more than the praise of
God--"a severe remark, considering that several at
least of these persons afterwards boldly confessed Christ.
It indicates the displeasure with which God regarded their
conduct at this time, and with which He continues to regard
similar conduct" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
44-50. Jesus cried--in a loud tone, and with peculiar
and said, He that believeth on me,
&c.--This seems to be a supplementary record of some
weighty proclamations, for which there had been found no
natural place before, and introduced here as a sort of
summary and winding up of His whole testimony.
Joh 13:1-20. AT THE LAST SUPPER JESUS WASHES THE
DISCIPLES' FEET--THE DISCOURSE ARISING THEREUPON.
1. when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should
depart out of this world unto the Father--On these
beautiful euphemisms, see on Lu
9:31; Lu 9:51.
having loved his own which were in the
world, he loved them unto the end--The meaning is, that on
the very edge of His last sufferings, when it might have
been supposed that He would be absorbed in His own awful
prospects, He was so far from forgetting "His
own," who were to be left struggling "in the
world" after He had "departed out of it to the
Joh 17:11), that in His care for them He seemed scarce
to think of Himself save in connection with them:
"Herein is love," not only "enduring to the
end," but most affectingly manifested when, judging by
a human standard, least to be expected.
2. supper being ended--rather, "being prepared,"
"being served," or, "going on"; for
that it was not "ended" is plain from
the devil having now--or,
put into the heart of Judas
. . . to betray him--referring to the agreement
he had already made with the chief priests (
3. Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into
his hands, &c.--This verse is very sublime, and as a
preface to what follows, were we not familiar with it,
would fill us with inexpressible surprise. An unclouded
perception of His relation to the Father, the commission He
held from Him, and His approaching return to Him, possessed
4, 5. He riseth from supper, and laid aside his
garments--outer garments which would have impeded the
operation of washing.
and took a towel and girded
himself--assuming a servant's dress.
5. began to wash--proceeded to wash. Beyond all doubt
the feet of Judas were washed, as of all the rest.
6-11. Peter saith . . . Lord, dost thou wash my
feet?--Our language cannot bring out the intensely vivid
contrast between the "Thou" and the
"my," which, by bringing them together,
the original expresses, for it is not good English to say,
"Lord, Thou my feet dost wash?" But
every word of this question is emphatic. Thus far, and
in the question itself, there was nothing but the most
profound and beautiful astonishment at a condescension to
him quite incomprehensible. Accordingly, though there can
be no doubt that already Peter's heart rebelled against
it as a thing not to be tolerated, Jesus ministers no
rebuke as yet, but only bids him wait a little, and he
should understand it all.
7. Jesus answered and said . . . What I do thou
knowest not now--that is, Such condescension does
need explanation; it is fitted to astonish.
but thou shall know
hereafter--afterwards, meaning presently; though
viewed as a general maxim, applicable to all dark sayings
in God's Word, and dark doings in God's providence,
these words are full of consolation.
8. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash,
&c.--more emphatically, "Never shalt Thou wash my
feet": that is, "That is an incongruity to which
I can never submit." How like the man!
If I wash thee not, thou hast no part
with me--What Peter could not submit to was, that the
Master should serve His servant. But the whole saving
work of Christ was one continued series of such services,
ending with and consummated by the most self-sacrificing
and transcendent of all services: THE S ON OF MAN CAME
not to be ministered unto, but TO MINISTER, AND TO
GIVE HIS LIFE A RANSOM FOR MANY. (See on Mr 10:45). If Peter then could not
submit to let his Master go down so low as to wash his
feet, how should he suffer himself to be served by Him
at all? This is couched under the one pregnant word
"wash," which though applicable to the
lower operation which Peter resisted, is the familiar
scriptural symbol of that higher cleansing, which
Peter little thought he was at the same time virtually
putting from him. It is not humility to refuse what the
Lord deigns to do for us, or to deny what He has done,
but it is self-willed presumption--not rare, however, in
those inner circles of lofty religious profession and
traditional spirituality, which are found wherever
Christian truth has enjoyed long and undisturbed
possession. The truest humility is to receive
reverentially, and thankfully to own, the gifts of grace.
9. Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my
head--that is, "To be severed from Thee, Lord, is
death to me: If that be the meaning of my speech, I tread
upon it; and if to be washed of Thee have such
significance, then not my feet only, but hands, head, and
all, be washed!" This artless expression of clinging,
life-and-death attachment to Jesus, and felt dependence
upon Him for his whole spiritual well-being, compared with
the similar saying in
Joh 6:68, 69 (see on Joh
6:68,69), furnishes such evidence of historic
verity such as no thoroughly honest mind can resist.
10. He that is washed--in this thorough sense, to
express which the word is carefully changed to one meaning
to wash as in a bath.
needeth not--to be so washed any
save to wash his feet--needeth to do
no more than wash his feet (and here the former word is
resumed, meaning to wash the hands or feet).
but is clean every whit--as a whole.
This sentence is singularly instructive. Of the two
cleansings, the one points to that which takes place at
the commencement of the Christian life, embracing
complete absolution from sin as a guilty state, and
entire deliverance from it as a polluted life (
Re 1:5; 1Co 6:11) --or, in the language of theology,
Justification and Regeneration. This
cleansing is effected once for all, and is never
repeated. The other cleansing, described as that of
"the feet," is such as one walking from a bath
quite cleansed still needs, in consequence of his contact
with the earth. (Compare
Ex 30:18, 19). It is the daily cleansing which
we are taught to seek, when in the spirit of adoption we
say, "Our Father which art in heaven . . .
forgive us our debts" (
Mt 6:9, 12); and, when burdened with the sense of
manifold shortcomings--as what tender spirit of a Christian
is not?--is it not a relief to be permitted thus to wash
our feet after a day's contact with the earth? This is
not to call in question the completeness of our past
justification. Our Lord, while graciously insisting on
washing Peter's feet, refuses to extend the cleansing
farther, that the symbolical instruction intended to be
conveyed might not be marred.
and ye are clean--in the first and
but not all--important, as showing
that Judas, instead of being as true-hearted a disciple as
the rest at first, and merely falling away
afterwards--as many represent it--never experienced that
cleansing at all which made the others what they were.
12-15. Know ye what I have done?--that is, its intent. The
question, however, was put merely to summon their attention
to His own answer.
13. Ye call me Master--Teacher.
and Lord--learning of Him in
the one capacity, obeying Him in the other.
and ye say well, for so I am--The
conscious dignity with which this claim is made is
remarkable, following immediately on His laying aside the
towel of service. Yet what is this whole history but a
succession of such astonishing contrast from first to last?
14. If I then--the Lord.
have washed your feet--the
ye--but fellow servants.
ought to wash one another's
feet--not in the narrow sense of a literal washing,
profanely caricatured by popes and emperors, but by the
very humblest real services one to another.
16, 17. The servant is not greater than his lord,
&c.--an oft-repeated saying (
Mt 10:24, &c.).
If ye know these things, happy are ye
if ye do them--a hint that even among real Christians the
doing of such things would come lamentably short of
18, 19. I speak not of you all--the "happy are
Joh 13:17, being on no supposition applicable to
I know whom I have chosen--in the
But that the scripture may be
fulfilled--that is, one has been added to your number, by
no accident or mistake, who is none of Mine, but just that
he might fulfil his predicted destiny.
He that eateth bread with
me--"did eat of my bread" (
Ps 41:9), as one of My family; admitted to the nearest
familiarity of discipleship and of social life.
hath lifted up his heel against
me--turned upon Me, adding insult to injury.
Heb 10:29). In the Psalm the immediate reference is to
Ahithophel's treachery against David (
2Sa 17:1-23), one of those scenes in which the parallel
of his story with that of His great Antitype is exceedingly
striking. "The eating bread derives a fearful meaning
from the participation in the sacramental supper, a meaning
which must be applied for ever to all unworthy
communicants, as well as to all betrayers of Christ who eat
the bread of His Church" (STIER, with whom, and
others, we agree in thinking that Judas partook of the
19. I tell you before . . . that when it comes to
pass, ye may believe--and it came to pass when they deeply
needed such confirmation.
20. He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me,
&c.--(See on Mt 10:40).
The connection here seems to be that despite the dishonor
done to Him by Judas, and similar treatment awaiting
themselves, they were to be cheered by the assurance that
their office, even as His own, was divine.
21. When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit,
and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
One of you shall betray me--The announcement of
Joh 13:18 seems not to have been plain enough to be
quite apprehended, save by the traitor himself. He will
therefore speak it out in terms not to be misunderstood.
But how much it cost Him to do this, appears from the
"trouble" that came over His
"spirit"--visible emotion, no doubt--before He
got it uttered. What wounded susceptibility does this
disclose, and what exquisite delicacy in His social
intercourse with the Twelve, to whom He cannot, without an
effort, break the subject!
22. the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom
he spake--Further intensely interesting particulars are
given in the other Gospels: (1) "They were exceeding
Mt 26:22). (2) "They began to inquire among
themselves which of them it was that should do this
Lu 22:23). (3) "They began to say unto Him one by
one, Is it I, and another, Is it I?" (
Mr 14:19). Generous, simple hearts! They abhorred the
thought, but, instead of putting it on others, each was
only anxious to purge himself and know if he
could be the wretch. Their putting it at once to Jesus
Himself, as knowing doubtless who was to do it, was the
best, as it certainly was the most spontaneous and artless
evidence of their innocence. (4) Jesus, apparently while
this questioning was going on, added, "The Son of man
goeth as it is written of Him, but woe unto that man by
whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that
man if he had not been born" (
Mt 26:24). (5) "Judas," last of all,
"answered and said, Lord, is it I?"
evidently feeling that when all were saying this, if he
held his peace, that of itself would draw suspicion upon
him. To prevent this the question is wrung out of him, but
perhaps, amidst the stir and excitement at the table, in a
half-suppressed tone as we are inclined to think the answer
also was--"Thou hast said" (
Mt 26:25), or possibly by little more than a sign; for
Joh 13:28 it is evident that till the moment when he
went out, he was not openly discovered.
23-26. there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his
disciples, whom Jesus loved--Thus modestly does our
Evangelist denote himself, as reclining next to Jesus at
Peter . . . beckoned to him
to ask who it should be of whom he spake--reclining
probably at the corresponding place on the other side of
25. He then lying--rather leaning over on Jesus'
saith--in a whisper,
"Lord, who is it?"
26. Jesus answered--also inaudibly, the answer being
communicated to Peter perhaps from behind.
He . . . to whom I shall
give a sop when I have dipped it--a piece of the bread
soaked in the wine or the sauce of the dish; one of the
ancient ways of testifying peculiar regard; compare
Joh 13:18, "he that eateth bread with
And when he had dipped . . .
he gave it to Judas, &c.--Thus the sign of Judas'
treachery was an affecting expression, and the last, of the
Saviour's wounded love!
27-30. after the sop Satan entered into him--Very solemn
are these brief hints of the successive steps by which
Judas reached the climax of his guilt. "The devil had
already put it into his heart to betray his Lord." Yet
who can tell what struggles he went through ere he brought
himself to carry that suggestion into effect? Even after
this, however, his compunctions were not at an end. With
the thirty pieces of silver already in his possession, he
seems still to have quailed--and can we wonder? When Jesus
stooped to wash his feet, it may be the last struggle was
reaching its crisis. But that word of the Psalm, about
"one that ate of his bread who would lift up his heel
against Him" (
Ps 41:9) probably all but turned the dread scale, and
the still more explicit announcement, that one of those
sitting with Him at the table should betray Him, would
beget the thought, "I am detected; it is now too late
to draw back." At that moment the sop is given; offer
of friendship is once more made--and how affectingly! But
already "Satan has entered into him," and
though the Saviour's act might seem enough to recall
him even yet, hell is now in his bosom, and he says within
himself, "The die is cast; now let me go through with
it"; fear, begone!" (See on Mt 12:43).
Then said Jesus unto him, That thou
doest, do quickly--that is, Why linger here? Thy presence
is a restraint, and thy work stands still; thou hast the
wages of iniquity, go work for it!
28, 29. no man . . . knew for what intent he
spake this unto him . . . some thought
. . . Jesus . . . said . . .
But what we need . . . or, . . . give
. . . to the poor--a very important statement, as
showing how carefully. Jesus had kept the secret, and Judas
his hypocrisy, to the last.
30. He then, having received the sop, went immediately
out--severing himself for ever from that holy
society with which he never had any spiritual
and it was night--but far blacker
night in the soul of Judas than in the sky over his head.
Joh 13:31-38. DISCOURSE AFTER THE TRAITOR'S
DEPARTURE--PETER'S SELF-CONFIDENCE--HIS FALL PREDICTED.
31. when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man
glorified--These remarkable words plainly imply that up to
this moment our Lord had spoken under a painful
restraint, the presence of a traitor within the little
circle of His holiest fellowship on earth preventing the
free and full outpouring of His heart; as is evident,
indeed, from those oft-recurring clauses, "Ye are not
all clean," "I speak not of you all,"
&c. "Now" the restraint is removed, and the
embankment which kept in the mighty volume of living waters
having broken down, they burst forth in a torrent which
only ceases on His leaving the supper room and entering on
the next stage of His great work--the scene in the Garden.
But with what words is the silence first broken on the
departure of Judas? By no reflections on the traitor, and,
what is still more wonderful, by no reference to the dread
character of His own approaching sufferings. He does not
even name them, save by announcing, as with a burst of
triumph, that the hour of His glory has arrived! And
what is very remarkable, in five brief clauses He repeats
this word "glorify" five times, as if to
His view a coruscation of glories played at that moment
about the Cross. (See on Joh
God is glorified in him--the glory of
Each reaching its zenith in the Death of the Cross!
32. If God be glorified in him, God shall also--in return
and reward of this highest of all services ever rendered to
Him, or capable of being rendered.
glorify him in himself, and
. . . straightway glorify him--referring now to
the Resurrection and Exaltation of Christ after this
service was over, including all the honor and glory then
put upon Him, and that will for ever encircle Him as Head
of the new creation.
33-35. Little children--From the height of His own glory He
now descends, with sweet pity, to His "little
children," all now His own. This term of
endearment, nowhere else used in the Gospels, and once only
employed by Paul (
Ga 4:19), is appropriated by the beloved disciple
himself, who no fewer than seven times employs it in his
Ye shall seek me--feel the want of
as I said to the Jews-- (
Joh 7:34; 8:21). But oh in what a different sense!
34. a new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one
another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one
another--This was the new feature of it.
Christ's love to His people in giving His life a ransom
for them was altogether new, and consequently as a Model
and Standard for theirs to one another. It is not, however,
something transcending the great moral law, which is
"the old commandment" (
1Jo 2:7, and see on Mr
12:28-33), but that law in a new and peculiar
form. Hence it is said to be both new and
1Jo 2:7, 8).
35. By this shall all men know that ye are my
disciples--the disciples of Him who laid down His life for
those He loved.
if ye have love one to another--for My
sake, and as one in Me; for to such love men outside
the circle of believers know right well they are entire
strangers. Alas, how little of it there is even within this
36-38. Peter said--seeing plainly in these directions how
to behave themselves, that He was indeed going from
Lord, whither guest thou?--having
hardly a glimmer of the real truth.
Jesus answered, . . . thou
canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me
afterwards--How different from what He said to the Jews:
"Whither I go ye cannot come" (
37. why not . . . now? I will lay down my life
for thy sake--He seems now to see that it was death
Christ referred to as what would sever Him from them, but
is not staggered at following Him thither. Jesus answered,
38. Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake?--In this
repetition of Peter's words there is deep though
affectionate irony, and this Peter himself would feel for
many a day after his recovery, as he retraced the painful
Verily . . . The cock,
&c.--See on Lu
We now come to that portion of the evangelical history
which we may with propriety call its Holy of Holies.
Our Evangelist, like a consecrated priest, alone opens up
to us the view into this sanctuary. It is the record of the
last moments spent by the Lord in the midst of His
disciples before His passion, when words full of heavenly
thought flowed from His sacred lips. All that His heart,
glowing with love, had still to say to His friends, was
compressed into this short season. At first (from
Joh 13:31) the intercourse took the form of
conversation; sitting at table, they talked familiarly
together. But when (
Joh 14:31) the repast was finished, the language of
Christ assumed a loftier strain; the disciples, assembled
around their Master, listened to the words of life, and
seldom spoke a word (only
Joh 16:17, 29). "At length, in the Redeemer's
sublime intercessory prayer, His full soul was poured forth
in express petitions to His heavenly Father on behalf of
those who were His own. It is a peculiarity of these last
chapters, that they treat almost exclusively of the most
profound relations--as that of the Son to the Father, and
of both to the Spirit, that of Christ to the Church, of the
Church to the world, and so forth. Moreover, a considerable
portion of these sublime communications surpassed the point
of view to which the disciples had at that time attained;
hence the Redeemer frequently repeats the same sentiments
in order to impress them more deeply upon their minds, and,
because of what they still did not understand, points them
to the Holy Spirit, who would remind them of all His
sayings, and lead them into all truth (
Joh 14:26)" [OLSHAUSEN].
1. Let not your heart be troubled, &c.--What myriads of
souls have not these opening words cheered, in deepest
gloom, since first they were uttered!
ye believe in God--absolutely.
believe also in me--that is, Have the
same trust in Me. What less, and what else, can
these words mean? And if so, what a demand to make by one
sitting familiarly with them at the supper table! Compare
the saying in
Joh 5:17, for which the Jews took up stones to stone
Him, as "making himself equal with God" (
Joh 14:18). But it is no transfer of our trust from
its proper Object; it is but the concentration of
our trust in the Unseen and Impalpable One upon His Own
Incarnate Son, by which that trust, instead of the
distant, unsteady, and too often cold and scarce real thing
it otherwise is, acquires a conscious reality, warmth, and
power, which makes all things new. This is Christianity
2. In my Father's house are many mansions--and so room
for all, and a place for each.
if not, I would have told you--that
is, I would tell you so at once; I would not deceive
I go to prepare a place for you--to
obtain for you a right to be there, and to possess your
3. I will come again and receive you unto
myself--strictly, at His Personal appearing; but in
a secondary and comforting sense, to each individually.
Mark again the claim made:--to come again to receive His
people to Himself, that where He is there
they may be also. He thinks it ought to be enough to be
assured that they shall be where He is and in His
4-7. whither I go ye know . . . Thomas saith,
Lord, we know not whither thou guest . . . Jesus
saith, I am the way, &c.--By saying this, He meant
rather to draw out their inquiries and reply to them.
Christ is "THE WAY" to the Father--"no man
cometh unto the Father but by Me"; He is "THE
TRUTH" of all we find in the Father when we get to
Him, "For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the
Godhead bodily" (
Col 2:9), and He is all "THE LIFE" that shall
ever flow to us and bless us from the Godhead thus
approached and thus manifested in Him--"this is the
true God and eternal life" (
7. from henceforth--now, or from this time, understand.
8-12. The substance of this passage is that the Son is the
ordained and perfect manifestation of the Father, that His
own word for this ought to His disciples to be enough; that
if any doubts remained His works ought to remove them (see
on Joh 10:37); but yet that these
works of His were designed merely to aid weak faith, and
would be repeated, nay exceeded, by His disciples, in
virtue of the power He would confer on them after His
departure. His miracles the apostles wrought, though wholly
in His name and by His power, and the "greater"
works--not in degree but in kind--were the conversion of
thousands in a day, by His Spirit accompanying them.
13, 14. whatsoever ye . . . ask in my name--as
that will I do--as Head and Lord of
the kingdom of God. This comprehensive promise is
emphatically repeated in
15-17. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray
the Father, &c.--This connection seems designed to
teach that the proper temple for the indwelling Spirit of
Jesus is a heart filled with that love to Him which lives
actively for Him, and so this was the fitting preparation
for the promised gift.
he shall give you another Comforter--a
word used only by John; in his Gospel with reference
to the Holy Spirit, in his First Epistle (
1Jo 2:1), with reference to Christ Himself. Its proper
sense is an "advocate," "patron,"
"helper." In this sense it is plainly meant of
1Jo 2:1), and in this sense it comprehends all the
comfort as well as aid of the Spirit's work.
The Spirit is here promised as One who would supply
Christ's own place in His absence.
that he may abide with you for
ever--never go away, as Jesus was going to do in the body.
17. whom the world cannot receive, &c.--(See
he dwelleth with you, and shall be in
you--Though the proper fulness of both these was yet
future, our Lord, by using both the present and the future,
seems plainly to say that they already had the germ
of this great blessing.
18-20. I will not leave you comfortless--in a bereaved and
desolate condition; or (as in Margin)
I will come to you--"I come"
or "am coming" to you; that is, plainly by the
Spirit, since it was to make His departure to be no
19. world seeth--beholdeth.
me no more, but ye see--behold.
me--His bodily presence, being all the
sight of Him which "the world" ever had, or was
capable of, it "beheld Him no more" after His
departure to the Father; but by the coming of the Spirit,
the presence of Christ was not only continued to His
spiritually enlightened disciples, but rendered far more
efficacious and blissful than His bodily presence had
been before the Spirit's coming.
because I live--not "shall
live," only when raised from the dead; for it is His
unextinguishable, divine life of which He speaks, in view
of which His death and resurrection were but as
shadows passing over the sun's glorious disk. (Compare
Lu 24:5; Re 1:18, "the Living One"). And this
grand saying Jesus uttered with death immediately in
view. What a brightness does this throw over the next
clause, "ye shall live also!" "Knowest thou
not," said L UTHER to the King of Terrors, "that
thou didst devour the Lord Christ, but wert obliged to give
Him back, and wert devoured of Him? So thou must leave me
undevoured because I abide in Him, and live and suffer for
His name's sake. Men may hunt me out of the world--that
I care not for--but I shall not on that account abide in
death. I shall live with my Lord Christ, since I know and
believe that He liveth!" (quoted in STIER).
20. At that day--of the Spirit's coming.
ye shall know that I am in my Father,
ye in me, I in you--(See on Joh
21. He that hath my commandments and keepeth them,
&c.--(See on Joh 14:15).
my Father and I will love him--Mark
the sharp line of distinction here, not only between the
Divine Persons but the actings of love in Each
respectively, towards true disciples.
22. Judas saith . . . not Iscariot--Beautiful
parenthesis this! The traitor being no longer present, we
needed not to be told that this question came not from
him. But it is as if the Evangelist had said, "A
very different Judas from the traitor, and a very different
question from any that he would have put. Indeed [as one in
STIER says], we never read of Iscariot that he entered in
any way into his Master's words, or ever put a question
even of rash curiosity (though it may be he did, but that
nothing from him was deemed fit for immortality in
the Gospels but his name and treason)."
how . . . manifest thyself
to us, and not to the world--a most natural and proper
question, founded on
Joh 14:19, though interpreters speak against it as
23. we will come and make our abode with him--Astonishing
statement! In the Father's "coming" He
"refers to the revelation of Him as a Father to
the soul, which does not take place till the Spirit comes
into the heart, teaching it to cry, Abba,
Father" [OLSHAUSEN]. The "abode" means a
permanent, eternal stay! (Compare
Le 26:11, 12; Eze 37:26, 27; 2Co 6:16; and
25, 26. he shall teach you all things, and bring all to
. . . remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto
you--(See on Joh 14:15; Joh 14:17). As the Son came in the
Father's name, so the Father shall send the Spirit
in My name, says Jesus, that is, with like divine
power and authority to reproduce in their
souls what Christ taught them, "bringing to living
consciousness what lay like slumbering germs in their
minds" [OLSHAUSEN]. On this rests the credibility
and ultimate divine authority of THE GOSPEL HISTORY.
The whole of what is here said of THE S PIRIT is decisive
of His divine personality. "He who can regard
all the personal expressions, applied to the Spirit
in these three chapters ('teaching,'
'coming,' 'convincing,' 'guiding,'
'prophesying,' 'taking') as being no other
than a long drawn-out figure, deserves not to be recognized
even as an interpreter of intelligible words, much less an
expositor of Holy Scripture" [S TIER].
27. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you--If
Joh 14:25, 26 sounded like a note of preparation for
drawing the discourse to a close, this would sound like a
farewell. But oh, how different from ordinary adieus! It
is a parting word, but of richest import, the
customary "peace" of a parting friend sublimed
and transfigured. As "the Prince of Peace" (
Isa 9:6) He brought it into flesh, carried it about in
His Own Person ("My peace") died to make it ours,
left it as the heritage of His disciples upon earth,
implants and maintains it by His Spirit in their hearts.
Many a legacy is "left" that is never
"given" to the legatee, many a gift destined that
never reaches its proper object. But Christ is the Executor
of His own Testament; the peace He
"leaves" He "gives"; Thus
all is secure.
not as the world giveth--in contrast
with the world, He gives sincerely, substantially,
28. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go
unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I--These
words, which Arians and Socinians perpetually quote as
triumphant evidence against the proper Divinity of Christ,
really yield no intelligible sense on their principles.
Were a holy man on his deathbed, beholding his
friends in tears at the prospect of losing him, to say,
"Ye ought rather to joy than weep for me, and would if
ye really loved me, "the speech would be quite
natural. But if they should ask him, why joy at his
departure was more suitable than sorrow, would they not
start back with astonishment, if not horror, were he to
reply, "Because my Father is greater than
I?" Does not this strange speech from Christ's
lips, then, presuppose such teaching on His part as
would make it extremely difficult for them to think He
could gain anything by departing to the Father, and make it
necessary for Him to say expressly that there was a sense
in which He could do so? Thus, this startling
explanation seems plainly intended to correct such
misapprehensions as might arise from the emphatic and
reiterated teaching of His proper equality with the
Father--as if so Exalted a Person were incapable of any
accession by transition from this dismal scene to a
cloudless heaven and the very bosom of the Father--and by
assuring them that this was not the case, to make
them forget their own sorrow in His approaching joy.
30, 31. Hereafter I will not talk much with you--"I
have a little more to say, but My work hastens apace, and
the approach of the adversary will cut it
for the prince of this world--(See on
cometh--with hostile intent, for a
last grand attack, having failed in His first formidable
Lu 4:1-13) from which he "departed [only] for a
and hath nothing in me--nothing of
His own--nothing to fasten on. Glorious saying! The
truth of it is, that which makes the Person and Work of
Christ the life of the world (
Heb 9:14; 1Jo 3:5; 2Co 5:21).
31. But that the world may know that I love the Father,
&c.--The sense must be completed thus: "But to the
Prince of the world, though he has nothing in Me, I shall
yield Myself up even unto death, that the world may know
that I love and obey the Father, whose commandment it is
that I give My life a ransom for many."
Arise, let us go hence--Did they then,
at this stage of the discourse, leave the supper room, as
some able interpreters conclude? If so, we think our
Evangelist would have mentioned it: see
Joh 18:1, which seems clearly to intimate that they
then only left the upper room. But what do the words mean
if not this? We think it was the dictate of that saying of
earlier date, "I have a baptism to be baptized with,
and how am I straitened till it be
accomplished!"--a spontaneous and irrepressible
expression of the deep eagerness of His spirit to get into
the conflict, and that if, as is likely, it was responded
to somewhat too literally by the guests who hung on His
lips, in the way of a movement to depart, a wave of His
hand, would be enough to show that He had yet more to say
ere they broke up; and that disciple, whose pen was dipped
in a love to his Master which made their movements
of small consequence save when essential to the
illustration of His words, would record this little
outburst of the Lamb hastening to the slaughter, in the
very midst of His lofty discourse; while the effect of it,
if any, upon His hearers, as of no consequence, would
naturally enough be passed over.
1-8. The spiritual oneness of Christ and His people, and
His relation to them as the Source of all their spiritual
life and fruitfulness, are here beautifully set forth
by a figure familiar to Jewish ears (
Isa 5:1, &c.).
I am the true vine--of whom the vine
of nature is but a shadow.
my Father is the husbandman--the great
Proprietor of the vineyard, the Lord of the spiritual
kingdom. (It is surely unnecessary to point out the claim
to supreme divinity involved in this).
2. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit
. . . every branch that beareth fruit--As in a
fruit tree, some branches may be fruitful, others
quite barren, according as there is a vital
connection between the branch and the stock, or no
vital connection; so the disciples of Christ may be
spiritually fruitful or the reverse, according as they are
vitally and spiritually connected with
Christ, or but externally and mechanically
attached to Him. The fruitless He "taketh
away" (see on Joh 15:6); the
fruitful He "purgeth" (cleanseth,
pruneth)--stripping it, as the husbandman does,
of what is rank (
Mr 4:19), "that it may bring forth more
fruit"; a process often painful, but no less needful
and beneficial than in the natural husbandry.
3. Now--rather, "Already."
ye are clean through--by reason
the word I have spoken to you--already
in a purified, fruitful condition, in consequence of the
long action upon them of that searching "word"
which was "as a refiner's fire" (
Mal 3:2, 3).
4. Abide in me, and I in you; as the branch cannot bear
fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, &c.--As
all spiritual fruitfulness had been ascribed to the mutual
inhabitation, and living, active
interpenetration (so to speak) of Christ and His
disciples, so here the keeping up of this vital connection
is made essential to continued fruitfulness.
5. without me--apart, or vitally disconnected from
ye can do nothing--spiritually,
6. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch
. . . withered . . . cast into the fire
. . . burned--The one proper use of the vine is
to bear fruit; failing this, it is good for one
other thing--fuel. (See
Eze 15:1-5). How awfully striking the figure, in this
view of it!
7. If ye abide in me, and my words . . . in
you--Mark the change from the inhabitation of
Himself to that of His words, paving the way for
the subsequent exhortations (
Joh 15:9, 10).
ask what ye will, and it shall be done
unto you--because this indwelling of His words in them
would secure the harmony of their askings with the divine
8. glorified that ye bear much fruit--not only from His
delight in it for its own sake, but as from "the
juices of the Living Vine."
so shall ye be my
disciples--evidence your discipleship.
9-11. continue ye in my love--not, "Continue to love
Me," but, "Continue in the possession and
enjoyment of My love to you"; as is evident from the
10. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my
love--the obedient spirit of true discipleship cherishing
and attracting the continuance and increase of Christ's
love; and this, He adds, was the secret even of His own
abiding in His Father's love!
13. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down
his life for his friends--The emphasis lies not on
"friends," but on "laying down his
life" for them; that is, "One can show no
greater regard for those dear to him than to give his life
for them, and this is the love ye shall find in Me."
14. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command
you--hold yourselves in absolute subjection to Me.
15. Henceforth I call you not servants--that is, in the
sense explained in the next words; for servants He
still calls them (
Joh 15:20), and they delight to call themselves so, in
the sense of being "under law to Christ" (
the servant knoweth not what his lord
doeth--knows nothing of his master's plans and
reasons, but simply receives and executes his
but . . . friends, for all
things that I have heard of my Father I have made known
unto you--admitted you to free, unrestrained fellowship,
keeping back nothing from you which I have received to
Ge 18:17; Ps 25:14; Isa 50:4).
16. Ye have not chosen me, but I . . . you--a
wholesale memento after the lofty things He had just said
about their mutual indwelling, and the unreservedness of
the friendship they had been admitted to.
you, that ye should go and bring forth
fruit--that is, give yourselves to it.
and that your fruit should
remain--showing itself to be an imperishable and ever
growing principle. (Compare
Pr 4:18; 2Jo 8).
that whatsoever ye shall ask,
&c.--(See on Joh 15:7).
17-21. The substance of these important verses has occurred
more than once before. (See on
Lu 12:49-53, &c.).
22-25. (See on Joh 9:39-41).
If I had not come and spoken unto
them, they had not had sin--comparatively none; all
other sins being light compared with the rejection of the
Son of God.
now they have no cloak for their
24. If I had not done . . . the works which none
other . . . did--(See on Joh
27. ye also shall bear witness--rather, "are
witnesses"; with reference indeed to their
future witness-bearing, but putting the emphasis upon
their present ample opportunities for acquiring
their qualifications for that great office, inasmuch as
they had been "with Him from the beginning." (See
on Lu 1:2).
1-5. These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should
not be offended--both the warnings and the
encouragements just given.
2. They shall put you out of the synagogue-- (
Joh 9:22; 12:42).
the time cometh, that whosoever
killeth you will think that he doeth God service--The words
mean religious service--"that he is offering a
service to God." (So Saul of Tarsus,
Ga 1:13, 14; Php 3:6).
4. these things I said not . . . at--from.
the beginning--He had said it
pretty early (
Lu 6:22), but not quite as in
because I was with you.
5. But now I go my way to him that sent me--While He was
with them, the world's hatred was directed chiefly
against Himself; but His departure would bring it down upon
them as His representatives.
and none of you asketh me, Whither
goest thou?--They had done so in a sort (
Joh 13:36; 14:5); but He wished more intelligent and
eager inquiry on the subject.
6, 7. But because I have said these things . . .
sorrow hath filled your heart--Sorrow had too much
paralyzed them, and He would rouse their energies.
7. It is expedient for you that I go away--
My Saviour, can it ever be
That I should gain by losing thee?
for if I go not away, the Comforter
will not come unto you, but if I depart, I will send him
unto you--(See on Joh 7:39; Joh 14:15).
8. And when he is come, he will, &c.--This is one of
the passages most pregnant with thought in the profound
discourses of Christ; with a few great strokes depicting
all and every part of the ministry of the Holy Ghost in the
world--His operation with reference to individuals as well
as the mass, on believers and unbelievers alike
he will reprove--This is too weak a
word to express what is meant. Reproof is indeed
implied in the term employed, and doubtless the word begins
with it. But convict or convince is the thing
intended; and as the one expresses the work of the Spirit
on the unbelieving portion of mankind, and the other
on the believing, it is better not to restrict it to
9. Of sin, because they believe not on me--As all sin has
its root in unbelief, so the most aggravated form of
unbelief is the rejection of Christ. The Spirit, however,
in fastening this truth upon the conscience, does not
extinguish, but, on the contrary, does consummate
and intensify, the sense of all other sins.
10. Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see
me no more--Beyond doubt, it is Christ's personal
righteousness which the Spirit was to bring home to the
sinner's heart. The evidence of this was to lie in the
great historical fact, that He had "gone to His
Father and was no more visible to men":--for if His
claim to be the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, had
been a lie, how should the Father, who is "a jealous
God," have raised such a blasphemer from the dead and
exalted him to His right hand? But if He was the
"Faithful and True Witness," the Father's
"Righteous Servant," "His Elect, in whom His
soul delighted," then was His departure to the Father,
and consequent disappearance from the view of men, but the
fitting consummation, the august reward, of all that He did
here below, the seal of His mission, the glorification of
the testimony which He bore on earth, by the reception of
its Bearer to the Father's bosom. This triumphant
vindication of Christ's rectitude is to us
divine evidence, bright as heaven, that He is indeed the
Saviour of the world, God's Righteous Servant to
justify many, because He bare their iniquities (
Isa 53:11). Thus the Spirit, in this clause, is seen
convincing men that there is in Christ perfect relief under
the sense of sin of which He had before convinced
them; and so far from mourning over His absence from us, as
an irreparable loss, we learn to glory in it, as the
evidence of His perfect acceptance on our behalf,
exclaiming with one who understood this point, "Who
shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is
God that justifieth: Who is he that condemneth? It is
Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again, who
is even at the right hand of God," &c. (
Ro 8:33, 34).
11. Of judgment, because the prince of this world is
judged--By supposing that the final judgment is here
meant, the point of this clause is, even by good
interpreters, quite missed. The statement, "The prince
of this world is judged," means, beyond all
reasonable doubt, the same as that in
Joh 12:31, "Now shall the prince of this world be
cast out"; and both mean that his dominion over
men, or his power to enslave and so to ruin them, is
destroyed. The death of Christ "judged" or
judicially overthrew him, and he was thereupon "cast
out" or expelled from his usurped dominion (
Heb 2:14; 1Jo 3:8; Col 2:15). Thus, then, the Spirit
shall bring home to men's conscience: (1) the sense of
sin, consummated in the rejection of Him who came to
"take away the sin of the world"; (2) the sense
of perfect relief in the righteousness of the
Father's Servant, now fetched from the earth that
spurned Him to that bosom where from everlasting He had
dwelt; and (3) the sense of emancipation from the fetters
of Satan, whose judgment brings to men liberty to be
holy, and transformation out of servants of the devil into
sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. To one class of
men, however, all this will carry conviction only;
they "will not come to Christ"--revealed though
He be to them as the life-giving One--that they may have
life. Such, abiding voluntarily under the dominion of the
prince of this world, are judged in his judgment,
the visible consummation of which will be at the great day.
To another class, however, this blessed teaching will have
another issue--translating them out of the kingdom of
darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
12-15. when he, the Spirit of truth, is come
. . . he shall not speak of himself--that is,
from Himself, but, like Christ Himself, "what He
hears," what is given Him to communicate.
he will show you things to
come--referring specially to those revelations which, in
the Epistles partially, but most fully in the Apocalypse,
open up a vista into the Future of the Kingdom of God,
whose horizon is the everlasting hills.
14. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine and
show it unto you--Thus the whole design of the Spirit's
office is to glorify Christ--not in His own Person, for
this was done by the Father when He exalted Him to His own
right hand--but in the view and estimation of men. For this
purpose He was to "receive of
Christ"--all the truth relating to
Christ--"and show it unto them," or
make them to discern it in its own light. The
subjective nature of the Spirit's teaching--the
discovery to the souls of men of what is Christ
outwardly--is here very clearly expressed; and, at the
same time, the vanity of looking for revelations of the
Spirit which shall do anything beyond throwing light in the
soul upon what Christ Himself is, and taught, and did upon
15. All things that the Father hath are mine--a plainer
expression than this of absolute community with the
Father in all things cannot be conceived, though the
"all things" here have reference to the things of
the Kingdom of Grace, which the Spirit was to receive that
He might show it to us. We have here a wonderful glimpse
into the inner relations of the Godhead.
16-22. A little while, and ye shall not see me; and again a
little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the
Father--The joy of the world at their not seeing Him seems
to show that His removal from them by death was what
He meant; and in that case, their joy at again seeing Him
points to their transport at His reappearance amongst them
on His Resurrection, when they could no longer doubt
His identity. At the same time the sorrow of the widowed
Church in the absence of her Lord in the heavens, and her
transport at His personal return, are certainly here
23-28. In that day--of the dispensation of the Spirit (as
ye shall ask--inquire of
me nothing--by reason of the fulness
of the Spirit's teaching (
Joh 14:26; 16:13; and compare
24. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name--for
"prayer in the name of Christ, and prayer to
Christ, presuppose His glorification"
ask--when I am gone, "in My
25. in proverbs--in obscure language, opposed to
"showing plainly"--that is, by the Spirit's
26. I say not . . . I will pray the Father for
you--as if He were not of Himself disposed to aid
you: Christ does pray the Father for His people, but not
for the purpose of inclining an unwilling ear.
27. For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have
loved me--This love of theirs is that which is called forth
by God's eternal love in the gift of His Son
mirrored in the hearts of those who believe, and
resting on His dear Son.
28. I came forth from the Father, &c.--that is,
"And ye are right, for I have indeed so come forth,and
shall soon return whence I came." This echo of the
truth, alluded to in
Joh 16:27, seems like thinking aloud, as if it
were grateful to His own spirit on such a subject and at
such an hour.
29, 30. His disciples said, . . . now speakest
thou plainly, and speakest no proverb--hardly more so than
before; the time for perfect plainness was yet to come; but
having caught a glimpse of His meaning (it was nothing
more), they eagerly express their satisfaction, as if glad
to make anything of His words. How touchingly does this
show both the simplicity of their hearts and the infantile
character of their faith!
31-33. Jesus answered . . . Do ye now
believe?--that is, "It is well ye do, for it is soon
to be tested, and in a way ye little expect."
the hour cometh, yea, is now come,
that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall
leave me alone; and yet I am not alone--A deep and awful
sense of wrong experienced is certainly expressed
here, but how lovingly! That He was not to be utterly
deserted, that there was One who would not forsake Him, was
to Him matter of ineffable support and consolation; but
that He should be without all human countenance and
cheer, who as Man was exquisitely sensitive to the law of
sympathy, would fill themselves with as much shame,
when they afterwards recurred to it, as the Redeemer's
heart in His hour of need with pungent sorrow.
"I looked for some to take pity, but there was none;
and for comforters, but I found none" (
because the Father is with me--how
near, and with what sustaining power, who can express?
33. These things I have spoken unto you--not the
immediately preceding words, but this whole discourse, of
which these were the very last words, and which He thus
that in me ye might have peace--in the
sublime sense before explained. (See on Joh 14:27).
In the world ye shall have
tribulation--specially arising from its deadly opposition
to those who "are not of the world, but chosen out of
the world." So that the "peace" promised was
far from an unruffled one.
I have overcome the world--not only
before you, but for you, that ye may be able
to do the same (
1Jo 5:4, 5).
(See on Joh 14:1). Had this prayer
not been recorded, what reverential reader would not
have exclaimed, Oh, to have been within hearing of such a
prayer as that must have been, which wound up the whole of
His past ministry and formed the point of transition to the
dark scenes which immediately followed! But here it is, and
with such signature of the Lips that uttered it that we
seem rather to hear it from Himself than read it from the
pen of His faithful reporter.
1-3. These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his
eyes--"John very seldom depicts the gestures or looks
of our Lord, as here. But this was an occasion of which the
impression was indelible, and the upward look could not be
passed over" [ALFORD].
Father, the hour is come--(See on Joh 13:31, 32).
glorify thy Son--Put honor upon Thy
Son, by countenancing, sustaining, and carrying Him through
him power over all flesh--(See on Mt 11:27; Mt 28:18-20).
give eternal life to as many as,
&c.--literally, "to all that which thou hast given
him." (See on Joh 6:37-40).
3. this is--that.
life eternal, that they
know, &c.--This life eternal,
then, is not mere conscious and unending existence, but a
life of acquaintance with God in Christ (
thee, the only true God--the sole
personal living God; in glorious contrast equally with
heathen polytheism, philosophic naturalism,
and mystic pantheism.
and Jesus Christ whom thou hast
sent--This is the only place where our Lord gives Himself
this compound name, afterwards so current in apostolic
preaching and writing. Here the terms are used in their
strict signification--"JESUS," because He
"saves His people from their sins";
"C HRIST," as anointed with the
measureless fulness of the Holy Ghost for the exercise of
His saving offices (see on Mt
1:16); "WHOM THOU HAST SENT," in the
plenitude of Divine Authority and Power, to save. "The
very juxtaposition here of Jesus Christ with the
Father is a proof, by implication, of our Lord's
Godhead. The knowledge of God and a creature could
not be eternal life, and such an association of the one
with the other would be inconceivable" [ALFORD].
4, 5. I have glorified thee on the earth--rather, "I
glorified" (for the thing is conceived as now
I have finished--I finished.
the work which thou gavest me to
do--It is very important to preserve in the translation the
past tense, used in the original, otherwise it might
be thought that the work already
"finished" was only what He had done
before uttering that prayer; whereas it will be
observed that our Lord speaks throughout as already beyond
this present scene (
Joh 17:12, &c.), and so must be supposed to include
in His "finished work" the "decease which He
was to accomplish at Jerusalem."
5. And now--in return.
glorify thou me--The "I
Thee" and "Thou Me" are so placed
in the original, each beside its fellow, as to show that A
PERFECT RECIPROCITY OF SERVICES of the Son to the Father
first, and then of the Father to the Son in return, is what
our Lord means here to express.
with the glory which I had with thee
before the world was--when "in the beginning the Word
was with God" (
Joh 1:1), "the only-begotten Son in the bosom
of the Father" (
Joh 1:18). With this pre-existent glory, which He
veiled on earth, He asks to be reinvested, the design of
the veiling being accomplished--not, however, simply as
before, but now in our nature.
6-8. From praying for Himself He now comes to pray for His
I have manifested--I manifested.
thy name--His whole character towards
to the men thou gavest me out of the
world--(See on Joh 6:37-40).
9-14. I pray for them--not as individuals merely, but as
representatives of all such in every succeeding age (see on
not for the world--for they had been
given Him "out of the world" (
Joh 17:6), and had been already transformed into the
very opposite of it. The things sought for them,
indeed, are applicable only to such.
10. all mine are thine, and thine are mine--literally,
"All My things are Thine and Thy things are
Mine." (On this use of the neuter gender, see
on Joh 6:37-40). Absolute COMMUNITY
OF PROPERTY between the Father and the Son is here
expressed as nakedly as words can do it. (See on Joh 17:5).
11. I am no more in the world--(See on
but these are in the world--that is,
Though My struggles are at an end, theirs are not; though I
have gotten beyond the scene of strife, I cannot sever
Myself in spirit from them, left behind and only just
entering on their great conflict.
Holy Father--an expression He nowhere
else uses. "Father" is His wonted
appellation, but "Holy" is here prefixed,
because His appeal was to that perfection of the
Father's nature, to "keep" or preserve them
from being tainted by the unholy atmosphere of "the
world" they were still in.
keep through thine own name--rather,
"in thy name"; in the exercise of that gracious
and holy character for which He was known.
that they may be one--(See on Joh 17:21).
12. I kept--guarded.
them in thy name--acting as Thy
Representative on earth.
none of them is lost, but the son of
perdition--It is not implied here that the son of perdition
was one of those whom the Father had given to the Son, but
rather the contrary (
Joh 13:18) [WEBSTER and WILKINSON]. It is just as in
Lu 4:26, 27, where we are not to suppose that the woman
of Sarepta (in Sidon) was one of the widows of
Israel, nor Naaman the Syrian one of the lepers
in Israel, though the language--the same as
here--might seem to express it.
son of perdition--doomed to it (
2Th 2:3; Mr 14:21).
13. I speak in the world, that they might have my joy
fulfilled in themselves--that is, Such a strain befits
rather the upper sanctuary than the scene of conflict; but
I speak so "in the world," that My joy,
the joy I experience in knowing that such intercessions are
to be made for them by their absent Lord, may be tasted by
those who now hear them, and by all who shall hereafter
read the record of them,
15-19. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the
world--for that, though it would secure their own safety,
would leave the world unblessed by their testimony.
but . . . keep them from the
evil--all evil in and of the world.
16. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the
Joh 15:18, 19). This is reiterated here, to pave the
way for the prayer which follows.
17. Sanctify them--As the former prayer, "Keep
them," was "negative," asking
protection for them from the poisonous element which
surrounded and pressed upon their renewed nature, so this
prayer, "Sanctify them," is positive,
asking the advancement and completion of their begun
thy truth--God's revealed truth,
as the medium or element of sanctification; a statement
this of immense importance.
thy word is truth--(Compare
Joh 15:3; Col 1:5; Eph 1:13).
18. As thou hast sent--sentest.
me into the world, even so have I also
sent them--sent I also them.
into the world--As their mission was
to carry into effect the purposes of their Master's
mission, so our Lord speaks of the authority in both
cases as co-ordinate.
19. And for their sakes I sanctify--consecrate.
myself that they also
be sanctified--consecrated. The only
difference between the application of the same term to
Christ and the disciples is, as applied to Christ, that it
means only to "consecrate"; whereas, in
application to the disciples, it means to consecrate with
the additional idea of previous sanctification,
since nothing but what is holy can be presented as an
offering. The whole self-sacrificing work of the disciples
appears here as a mere result of the offering of
the truth--Though the article is
wanting in the original here, we are not to translate, as
in the Margin, "truly sanctified";
for the reference seems plainly to be "the truth"
Joh 17:17. (See on Joh 17:17).
20-23. Neither pray I for these alone--This very important
explanation, uttered in condescension to the hearers and
readers of this prayer in all time, is meant not merely of
what follows, but of the whole prayer.
them also which shall believe--The
majority of the best manuscripts read "which
believe," all future time being viewed as
present, while the present is viewed as past and gone.
21. that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me,
and I in thee, that they may be one in us--The
indwelling Spirit of the Father and the Son is the one
perfect bond of union, knitting up into a living unity,
first all believers amongst themselves; next, this unity
into one still higher, with the Father and the Son.
(Observe, that Christ never mixes Himself up with His
disciples as He associates Himself with the Father, but
says I in THEM and THEY in US).
that the world may believe that thou
hast sent me--sentest me. So the grand impression upon the
world at large, that the mission of Christ is divine, is to
be made by the unity of His disciples. Of course,
then, it must be something that shall be visible or
perceptible to the world. What is it, then? Not certainly a
merely formal, mechanical unity of ecclesiastical
machinery. For as that may, and to a large extent does,
exist in both the Western and Eastern churches, with little
of the Spirit of Christ, yea much, much with which the
Spirit of Christ cannot dwell so instead of convincing the
world beyond its own pale of the divinity of the
Gospel, it generates infidelity to a large extent within
its own bosom. But the Spirit of Christ, illuminating,
transforming, and reigning in the hearts of the genuine
disciples of Christ, drawing them to each other as members
of one family, and prompting them to loving co-operation
for the good of the world--this is what, when sufficiently
glowing and extended, shall force conviction upon the world
that Christianity is divine. Doubtless, the more that
differences among Christians disappear--the more they can
agree even in minor matters--the impression upon the world
may be expected to be greater. But it is not
dependent upon this; for living and loving oneness in
Christ is sometimes more touchingly seen even amidst and in
spite of minor differences, than where no such differences
exist to try the strength of their deeper unity. Yet till
this living brotherhood in Christ shall show itself strong
enough to destroy the sectarianism, selfishness, carnality,
and apathy that eat out the heart of Christianity in all
the visible sections of it, in vain shall we expect the
world to be overawed by it. It is when "the Spirit
shall be poured upon us from on high," as a Spirit of
truth and love, and upon all parts of the Christian
territory alike, melting down differences and heart
burnings, kindling astonishment and shame at past
unfruitfulness, drawing forth longings of catholic
affection, and yearnings over a world lying in wickedness,
embodying themselves in palpable forms and active
measures--it is then that we may expect the effect here
announced to be produced, and then it will be irresistible.
Should not Christians ponder these things? Should not
the same mind be in them which was also in Christ Jesus
about this matter? Should not His prayer be theirs?
22. And the glory which thou gavest--hast given.
me I have given them, that they may be
one, even as we are one--The last clause shows the meaning
of the first. It is not the future glory of the
heavenly state, but the secret of that present unity
just before spoken of; the glory, therefore, of
the indwelling Spirit of Christ; the glory of an
accepted state, of a holy character, of every grace.
23. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made
perfect in one--(See on Joh 17:21).
24-26. Father, I will--The majesty of this style of
speaking is quite transparent. No petty criticism will be
allowed to fritter it away in any but superficial or
be with me where I am--(See on Joh 14:3).
that they may behold my glory which
thou hast given me--(See on Joh
17:5). Christ regards it as glory enough for us to be
admitted to see and gaze for ever upon His glory!
This is "the beatific vision"; but it shall be no
mere vision, for "we shall be like Him, because we
shall see Him as He is" (
25. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee--knew
but I have known thee--knew
and these have known--knew.
that thou hast sent--sentest
me--As before He said
"Holy Father," when desiring the display
of that perfection on His disciples (
Joh 17:11), so here He styles Him
"Righteous Father," because He is
appealing to His righteousness or justice, to make a
distinction between those two diametrically opposite
classes--"the world," on the one hand,
which would not "know the Father, though brought so
nigh to it in the Son of His love, and, on the other,
Himself, who recognized and owned Him, and even His
disciples, who owned His mission from the Father.
26. And I have declared--I made known or
thy name--in His past ministry.
and will declare it--in yet larger
measure, by the gift of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost and
through all succeeding ages.
that the love wherewith thou hast
me may be in them, and I in them--This
eternal love of the Father, resting first on Christ, is by
His Spirit imparted to and takes up its permanent abode in
all that believe in Him; and "He abiding in them and
they in Him" (
Joh 15:5), they are "one Spirit."
"With this lofty thought the Redeemer closes His
prayer for His disciples, and in them for His Church
through all ages. He has compressed into the last moments
given Him for conversation with His own the most sublime
and glorious sentiments ever uttered by mortal lips. But
hardly has the sound of the last word died away, when He
passes with the disciples over the brook Kedron to
Gethsemane--and the bitter conflict draws on. The seed of
the new world must be sown in Death, that thence Life may
spring up" [O LSHAUSEN].
1-3. over the brook Kedron--a deep, dark ravine, to the
northeast of Jerusalem, through which flowed this small
storm brook or winter torrent, and which in summer is dried
where was a garden--at the foot of the
Mount of Olives, "called Gethsemane; that is, olive
Mt 26:30, 36).
2. Judas . . . knew the place, for Jesus
Joh 8:1; Lu 21:37.
resorted thither with his
disciples--The baseness of this abuse of knowledge in
Judas, derived from admission to the closest privacies of
his Master, is most touchingly conveyed here, though
nothing beyond bare narrative is expressed. Jesus, however,
knowing that in this spot Judas would expect to find Him,
instead of avoiding it, hies Him thither, as a Lamb to the
slaughter. "No man taketh My life from Me, but I lay
it down of Myself" (
Joh 10:18). Besides, the scene which was to fill up the
little breathing-time, the awful interval, between the
Supper and the Apprehension--like the "silence in
heaven for about the space of half an hour" between
the breaking of the Apocalyptic Seals and the peal of the
Trumpets of war (
Re 8:1) --the AGONY--would have been too terrible for
the upper room; nor would He cloud the delightful
associations of the last Passover and the first
Supper by pouring out the anguish of His soul there.
The garden, however, with its amplitude, its shady olives,
its endeared associations, would be congenial to His heart.
Here He had room enough to retire--first, from eight of
them, and then from the more favored three; and here, when
that mysterious scene was over, the stillness would only be
broken by the tread of the traitor.
3. Judas then--"He that was called Judas, one of the
Twelve," says Luke (
Lu 22:47), in language which brands him with peculiar
infamy, as in the sacred circle while in no sense
a band of men--"the
detachment of the Roman cohort on duty at the festival
for the purpose of maintaining order" [WEBSTER and
officers from the chief priests and
Pharisees--captains of the temple and armed Levites.
lanterns and torches--It was full
moon, but in case He should have secreted Himself somewhere
in the dark ravine, they bring the means of exploring its
hiding-places--little knowing whom they had to do with.
"Now he that betrayed Him had given them a sign,
saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He, hold Him
Mt 26:48). The cold-bloodedness of this speech was only
exceeded by the deed itself. "And Judas went before
Lu 22:47], and forthwith he came to Jesus, and said,
Hail, Master, and kissed Him" (
Mt 26:49; compare
Ex 4:27; 18:7; Lu 7:45). The impudence of this
atrocious deed shows how thoroughly he had by this time
mastered all his scruples. If the dialogue between our Lord
and His captors was before this, as some
interpreters think it was, the kiss of Judas was purely
gratuitous, and probably to make good his right to the
money; our Lord having presented Himself unexpectedly
before them, and rendered it unnecessary for any one to
point Him out. But a comparison of the narratives seems to
show that our Lord's "coming forth" to the
band was subsequent to the interview of Judas.
"And Jesus said unto him, Friend"--not the
endearing term "friend" (in
Joh 15:15), but "companion," a word used on
occasions of remonstrance or rebuke (as in
Mt 20:13; 22:12) --"Wherefore art thou come?"
Mt 26:50). "Betrayest thou the Son of man with a
kiss"--imprinting upon the foulest act the mark of
tenderest affection? What wounded feeling does this
express! Of this Jesus showed Himself on various occasions
keenly susceptible--as all generous and beautiful natures
4-9. Jesus . . . knowing all things that should
upon him, went forth--from the shade
of the trees, probably, into open view, indicating His
sublime preparedness to meet His captors.
Whom seek ye?--partly to prevent a
rush of the soldiery upon the disciples [BENGEL]; and see
Mr 14:51, 52, as showing a tendency to this: but still
more as part of that courage and majesty which so overawed
them. He would not wait to be taken.
5. They answered . . . Jesus of Nazareth--just
the sort of blunt, straight forward reply one expects from
military men, simply acting on their instructions.
I am He--(See on
Judas . . . stood with
them--No more is recorded here of his part of the
scene, but we have found the gap painfully supplied by all
the other Evangelists.
6. As soon then as he said unto them, I am He, they went
and fell to the ground--struck down by
a power such as that which smote Saul of Tarsus and his
companions to the earth (
Ac 26:14). It was the glorious effulgence of the
majesty of Christ which overpowered them. "This,
occurring before His surrender, would show His power
over His enemies, and so the freedom with which He
gave Himself up" [MEYER].
7. Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye?--Giving them a
door of escape from the guilt of a deed which now
they were able in some measure to understand.
Jesus of Nazareth--The stunning effect
of His first answer wearing off, they think only of the
necessity of executing their orders.
8. I have told you that I am He: if therefore ye seek me,
let these go their way--Wonderful self-possession, and
consideration for others, in such circumstances!
9. That the saying might be fulfilled which he spake, Of
them which thou gavest me have I lost none--The reference
is to such sayings as
Joh 6:39; 17:12; showing how conscious the Evangelist
was, that in reporting his Lord's former sayings, he
was giving them not in substance merely, but in
form also. Observe, also, how the preservation of the
disciples on this occasion is viewed as part that deeper
preservation undoubtedly intended in the saying quoted.
10, 11. Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it, and
smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right
ear. The servant's name was Malchus--None of the other
Evangelists mention the name either of the ardent disciple
or of his victim. John being "known to the high
Joh 18:15), the mention of the servant's name by
him is quite natural, and an interesting mark of
truth in a small matter. As to the right ear,
specified both here and in Luke (
Lu 22:50), the man was "likely foremost of those
who advanced to seize Jesus, and presented himself in the
attitude of a combatant; hence his right side would be
exposed to attack. The blow of Peter was evidently aimed
vertically at his head" [WEBSTER and W ILKINSON].
11. Then said Jesus--"Suffer ye thus far" (
Put up thy sword into the sheath: the
cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink
it?--This expresses both the feelings which
struggled in the Lord's breast during the Agony in the
garden--aversion to the cup viewed in itself,
but, in the light of the Father's will, perfect
preparedness to drink it. (See on Lu 22:39-46). Matthew adds to the
address to Peter the following:--"For all they that
take the sword shall perish by the sword" (
Mt 26:52) --that is, 'Those who take the sword must
run all the risks of human warfare; but Mine is a warfare
whose weapons, as they are not carnal, are attended with no
such hazards, but carry certain victory.'
"Thinkest thou that I cannot now"--even after
things have proceeded so far--"pray to My Father, and
He shall presently give Me"--rather, "place at My
disposal"--"more than twelve legions of
angels"; with allusion, possibly, to the one angel who
had, in His agony, "appeared to Him from heaven
strengthening Him" (
Lu 22:43); and in the precise number, alluding to the
twelve who needed the help, Himself and His eleven
disciples. (The full complement of a legion of Roman
soldiers was six thousand). "But how then shall the
scripture be fulfilled that thus it must be?" (
Mt 26:53, 54). He could not suffer, according to the
Scripture, if He allowed Himself to be delivered from the
predicted death. "And He touched his ear and healed
Lu 22:51); for "the Son of man came not to destroy
men's lives, but to save them" (
Lu 9:56), and, even while they were destroying His, to
12. Then the band . . . took Jesus--but not till
He had made them feel that "no man took His life from
Him, but that He laid it down of Himself."
13. And led him away--"In that hour," says
Mt 26:55, 56), and probably now, on the way to
judgment, when the crowds were pressing upon Him,
"said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as
against a thief, with swords and staves, for to take
Me"--expressive of the indignity which He felt to be
thus done to Him--"I sat daily with you in the temple,
and ye laid no hold on Me. But this" (adds
Lu 22:53) "is your hour and the power of
darkness." Matthew continues--"But all this was
done that the scriptures of the prophets might be
fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook Him and
Mt 26:56) --thus fulfilling His prediction (
Mr 14:27; Joh 16:32).
14. Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews,
that it was expedient that one man should die for the
people--(Also see on Mr
15-18. Simon Peter followed Jesus--Natural though this was,
and safe enough, had he only "watched and prayed that
he enter not into temptation," as his Master bade him
Mt 26:41), it was, in his case, a fatal step.
and . . . another
disciple--Rather, "the other disciple"--our
Evangelist himself, no doubt.
known unto the high priest--(See on Joh 18:10).
went in with Jesus into the palace of
the high priest.
16. But Peter stood at the door without--by preconcerted
arrangement with his friend till he should get access for
Then went out that other
. . . and spake to her that kept the door, and
brought in Peter--The naturalness of these small
details is not unworthy of notice. This other disciple
first made good his own entrance on the score of
acquaintance with the high priest; this secured, he goes
forth again, now as a privileged person, to make interest
for Peter's admission. But thus our poor disciple is in
the coils of the serpent. The next steps will best be seen
Joh 18:17 and Joh 18:18.
17. Then saith the damsel that kept the door--"one of
the maids of the high priest," says Mark (
Mr 14:66). "When she saw Peter warming himself,
she looked upon him and said" (
Mr 14:67). Luke is more graphic (
Lu 22:56) --She "beheld him as he sat by the fire
(literally, 'the light'), and earnestly looked on
him (fixed her gaze upon him), and said." "His
demeanor and timidity, which must have vividly showed
themselves, as it so generally happens, leading to the
recognition of him" [O LSHAUSEN].
Art thou not also one of this
man's disciples?--that is, thou as well as "that
other disciple," whom she knew to be one, but did not
challenge, perceiving that he was a privileged
He saith, I am not--"He denied
before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest"
Mt 26:70) --a common form of point blank denial;
"I know [supply 'Him'] not, neither understand
I what thou sayest" (
Mr 14:68); "Woman, I know Him not" (
Lu 22:57). This was THE FIRST DENIAL. "And he went
out into the porch [thinking, perhaps, to steal away],
and the cock crew," (
18. And the servants and officers--the menials and some of
the "band" that "took Jesus." (Also see
on Mr 14:54.)
stood there, who had
a fire of coals, for it was cold, and
they warmed themselves--"John alone notices the
material (charcoal) of which the fire was made, and the
reason for a fire--the coldness of the night" [WEBSTER
and WILKINSON]. "Peter went in and sat with the
servants to see the end (
Mt 26:58), and warmed himself at the fire" (
Mr 14:54). These two statements are extremely
interesting. His wishing to "see the end," of
issue of these proceedings, was what led him into the
palace, for he evidently feared the worst. But once in, the
serpent coil is drawn closer; it is a cold night, and why
should not he take advantage of the fire as well as others?
Besides, in the talk of the crowd about the all-engrossing
topic, he may pick up something which he would like to
hear. "And as Peter was beneath in the palace"
Mr 14:66). Matthew (
Mt 26:69) says, "sat without in the
palace." According to Oriental architecture, and
especially in large buildings, as here, the street door--or
heavy folding gate through which single persons entered by
a wicket kept by a porter--opened by a passage or
Mr 14:68) into a quadrangular court, here called
the "palace" or hall, which was open
above, and is frequently paved with flagstones.
In the center of this court the "fire" would be
kindled (in a brazier). At the upper end of it, probably,
was the chamber in which the trial was held, open to the
court and not far from the fire (
Lu 22:61), but on a higher level; for Mark (
Mr 14:66) says the court was "beneath"
it. The ascent was, perhaps, by a short flight of steps.
This explanation will make the intensely interesting
details more intelligible.
19-21. The high priest . . . asked Jesus of his
disciples, and of his doctrine--probably to entrap Him into
some statements which might be used against Him at the
trial. From our Lord's answer it would seem that
"His disciples" were understood to be some secret
party. (Also see on Mr
20. I spake--have spoken.
openly to the world--See
I ever taught in the synagogues and in
the temple, whither the Jews always resort--courting
publicity, though with sublime noiselessness.
in secret have I said--spake I.
nothing--that is, nothing of any
different nature; all His private communications with the
Twelve being but explanations and developments of His
public teaching. (Compare
Isa 45:19; 48:16). (Also see on Mr 14:54.)
21. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me
. . . they know what I . . . said--This
seems to imply that He saw the attempt to draw Him into
self-crimination, and resented it by falling back upon the
right of every accused party to have some charge laid
against Him by competent witnesses. (Also see on Mr 14:54.)
22. struck Jesus with the palm . . . Answerest
Thou the high priest so--(See
Isa 50:6; and compare
Ac 23:2). (Also see on Mr
23. If I have spoken, &c.--"if I spoke" evil,
in reply to the high priest. (Also see on Mr 14:54.)
if well--He does not say "If
not" evil, as if His reply were merely
unobjectionable: "well" seems to challenge
more than this as due to His remonstrance This shows that
Mt 5:39 is not to be taken to the letter.
24-27. Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas--Our
translators so render the words, understanding that the
foregoing interview took place before Caiaphas;
Annas, declining to meddle with the case, having sent Him
to Caiaphas at once. But the words here literally
are, "Annas sent Him [not 'had sent
Him'] to Caiaphas"--and the "now" being
of doubtful authority. Thus read, the verse affords no
evidence that He was sent to Caiaphas before the
interview just recorded, but implies rather the contrary.
We take this interview, then, with some of the ablest
interpreters, to be a preliminary and non-official one with
Annas, at an hour of the night when Caiaphas'
Council could not convene; and one that ought not to be
confounded with that solemn one recorded by the other
Evangelists, when all were assembled and witnesses called.
But the building in which both met with Jesus appears to
have been the same, the room only being different, and the
court, of course, in that case, one. (Also see on Mr 14:54.)
25. And Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They
said therefore . . . Art thou not also one of his
Mt 26:71 the second charge was made by
"another maid, when he was gone out into the
porch," who "saw him, and said unto them that
were there, This [fellow] was also with Jesus of
Nazareth." So also
Mr 14:69. But in
Lu 22:58 it is said, "After a little while"
(from the time of the first denial), "another
[man] saw him, and said, Thou art also of
them." Possibly it was thrown at him by more than one;
but these circumstantial variations only confirm the truth
of the narrative.
He denied it, and said, I am not--in
Mt 26:72, "He denied with an oath, I do not know
the man." This was THE SECOND DENIAL.
26. One of the servants of the high priest, being his
kinsman, whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee
in the garden with him--No doubt his relationship to
Malchus drew attention to the man who smote him, and this
enabled him to identify Peter. "Sad reprisals!"
[BENGEL]. The other Evangelists make his detection to turn
upon his dialect. "After a while ['about
the space of one hour after' (
Lu 22:59)] came unto him they that stood by and said to
Peter, Surely thou also art one of them, for thy speech
betrayeth thee" (
Mt 26:73). "Thou art a Galilean, and thy speech
agreeth thereto" (
Mr 14:70; and so
Lu 22:59). The Galilean dialect had a more
Syrian cast than that of Judea. If Peter had held
his peace, this peculiarity had not been observed; but
hoping, probably, to put them off the scent by joining in
the fireside talk, he only thus revealed himself.
27. Peter then denied again--But, if the challenge of
Malchus' kinsman was made simultaneously with this on
account of his Galilean dialect, it was no simple denial;
Mt 26:74 says, "Then began he to curse and to
swear, saying, I know not the man." So
Mr 14:71. This was THE THIRD DENIAL.
and immediately--"while he yet
the cock crew--As Mark is the only
Evangelist who tells us that our Lord predicted that the
cock should crow twice (
Mr 14:30), so he only mentions that it did crow
Mr 14:72). The other Evangelists, who tell us merely
that our Lord predicted that "before the cock should
crow he would deny Him thrice" (
Mt 26:34; Lu 22:34; Joh 13:38), mention only one
actual crowing, which was Mark's last. This is
something affecting in this Evangelist--who, according to
the earliest tradition (confirmed by internal evidence),
derived his materials so largely from Peter as to have been
styled his "interpreter," being the
only one who gives both the sad prediction and its
still sadder fulfilment in full. It seems to show
that Peter himself not only retained through all his
after-life the most vivid recollection of the circumstances
of his fall, but that he was willing that others should
know them too. The immediately subsequent acts are
given in full only in Luke (
Lu 22:61, 62): "And the Lord turned and looked
upon Peter," from the hall of judgment to the court,
in the way already explained. But who can tell what
lightning flashes of wounded love and piercing reproach
shot from that "look" through the eye of Peter
into his heart! "And Peter remembered the word of the
Lord, how He had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou
shalt deny Me thrice. And Peter went out and wept
bitterly." How different from the sequel of Judas'
act! Doubtless the hearts of the two men towards the
Saviour were perfectly different from the first; and the
treason of Judas was but the consummation of the wretched
man's resistance of the blaze of light in the midst of
which he had lived for three years, while Peter's
denial was but a momentary obscuration of the heavenly
light and love to his Master which ruled his life. But the
immediate cause of the revulsion, which made Peter
"weep bitterly," was, beyond all doubt, this
heart-piercing "look" which his Lord gave him.
And remembering the Saviour's own words at the table,
"Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you that he
may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed [rather,
'I prayed'] for thee that thy faith fail
not" (see on Lu 22:31,
32), may we not say that this prayer fetched down
all that there was in that 'look' to pierce and
break the heart of. Peter, to keep it from despair, to work
in it "repentance unto salvation not to be repented
of," and at length, under other healing touches, to
"restore his soul?" (See on Mr 16:7).
Note.--Our Evangelist, having given the interview
with Annas, omitted by the other Evangelists, here omits
the trial and condemnation before Caiaphas, which the
others had recorded. (See on Mr 14:53-65). [The notes broken off
Mr 14:54 are here concluded].
Mr 14:61: The high priest asked Him, Art Thou
the Christ, the Son of theblessed?--Matthew
says the high priest put Him upon solemn oath,
saying, "I adjure Thee by the living God that Thou
tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God"
Mt 26:63). This rendered an answer by our Lord legally
Le 5:1). Accordingly,
Mr 14:62: Jesus said, I am--"Thou
hast said" (
Mt 26:64). In
Lu 22:67, 68, some other words are given, "If I
tell you, ye will not believe; and if I also ask you, ye
will not answer Me, nor let Me go." This seems to have
been uttered before giving His direct answer, as a
calm remonstrance and dignified protest against the
prejudgment of His case and the unfairness of their mode of
procedure. and ye shall see the Son of
man, &c.--This concluding part of our Lord's
answer is given somewhat more fully by Matthew and Luke.
"Nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter [rather,
'From henceforth'] shall ye see the Son of man
sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the
clouds of heaven" (
Mt 26:64; Lu 22:69). --that is, I know the scorn with
which ye are ready to meet such an avowal: To your eyes,
which are but eyes of flesh, there stands at this bar only
a mortal like yourselves, and He at the mercy of the
ecclesiastical and civil authorities:
"Nevertheless," a day is coming when ye
shall see another sight: Those eyes, which now gaze on Me
with proud disdain, shall see this very prisoner at the
right hand of the Majesty on high, and coming in the clouds
of heaven: Then shall the judged One be revealed as the
Judge, and His judges in this chamber appear at His august
tribunal; then shall the unrighteous judges be
impartially judged; and while they are wishing that
they had never been born, He for whom they now watch as
their Victim shall be greeted with the hallelujahs of
heaven, and the welcome of Him that sitteth upon the
Mr 14:63, 64: Then the high priest rent his
clothes, and saith, What need we anyfurther
witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy--"of his
own mouth" (
Lu 22:71); an affectation of religious horror. What think ye?--"Say, what
verdict would ye pronounce." They all condemned Him to be guilty
of death--of a capital crime. (See
Mr 14:65: And some began to spit on
Him--"Then did they spit in His face" (
Mt 26:67). See
Isa 50:6. And to cover His face, and to
buffet Him, and to say unto Him,Prophesy--or,
"divine," "unto us, Thou Christ, who is he
that smote Thee?" The sarcasm in styling Him the
Christ, and as such demanding of Him the perpetrator of
the blows inflicted upon Him, was in them as infamous as to
Him it was stinging. and the servants did strike him
with the palms of their hands--"And many other
things blasphemously spake they against him" (
Lu 22:65). This general statement is important, as
showing that virulent and varied as were the
recorded affronts put upon Him, they are but a small
specimen of what He endured on that black occasion.
28. Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas to the hall of
judgment--but not till "in the morning the chief
priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and
the whole council against Him to put Him to death, and
bound Him" (
Mt 27:1; and see on Mr
15:1). The word here rendered "hall of
judgment" is from the Latin, and denotes
"the palace of the governor of a Roman
they themselves went not into the
judgment hall lest they should be defiled--by contact with
ceremonially unclean Gentiles.
but that they might eat the
passover--If this refer to the principal part of the
festival, the eating of the lamb, the question is, how our
Lord and His disciples came to eat it the night before;
and, as it was an evening meal, how ceremonial
defilement contracted in the morning would unfit
them for partaking of it, as after six o'clock it was
reckoned a new day. These are questions which have
occasioned immense research and learned treatises. But as
the usages of the Jews appear to have somewhat varied at
different times, and our present knowledge of them is not
sufficient to clear up all difficulties, they are among the
not very important questions which probably will never be
29-32. Pilate went out to them, and said, What accusation
bring ye against this man?--State your charge.
30. If he were not a malefactor, we would not have
delivered him up unto thee--They were conscious they had
no case of which Pilate could take cognizance, and
therefore insinuate that they had already found Him worthy
of death by their own law; but not having the power, under
the Roman government, to carry their sentence into
execution, they had come merely for his sanction.
32. That the saying . . . might be fulfilled
which he spake, signifying what death he should die--that
is, by crucifixion (
Joh 12:32, 33; Mt 20:19); which being a Roman mode of
execution, could only be carried into effect by order of
the governor. (The Jewish mode in such cases as this was by
33-38. Pilate . . . called Jesus, and said
. . . Art thou the King of the Jews?--In
Lu 23:2 they charge our Lord before Pilate with
"perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute
to Cæsar, saying that He Himself is Christ a
king." Perhaps this was what occasioned Pilate's
34. Jesus answered . . . Sayest thou this of
thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?--an important
question for our Lord's case, to bring out whether the
word "King" were meant in a
political sense, with which Pilate had a right to deal,
or whether he were merely put up to it by His
accusers, who had no claims to charge Him but such as were
of a purely religious nature, with which Pilate had
nothing to do.
35. Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the
chief priests delivered thee to me: What hast thou
done?--that is, "Jewish questions I neither understand
nor meddle with; but Thou art here on a charge which,
though it seems only Jewish, may yet involve
treasonable matter: As they state it, I cannot
decide the point; tell me, then, what procedure of Thine
has brought Thee into this position." In modern
phrase, Pilate's object in this question was merely to
determine the relevancy of the charge.
36. Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world--He
does not say "not over," but "not of
this world"--that is, in its origin and
nature; therefore "no such kingdom as need give
thee or thy master the least alarm."
if my kingdom were of this world, then
would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to
the Jews--"A very convincing argument; for if His
servants did not fight to prevent their King from being
delivered up to His enemies, much less would they use force
for the establishment of His kingdom" [WEBSTER and
but now--but the fact is.
is my kingdom not from hence--Our Lord
only says whence His kingdom is not--first simply
affirming it, next giving proof of it, then reaffirming it.
This was all that Pilate had to do with. The
positive nature of His kingdom He would not obtrude
upon one who was as little able to comprehend it, as
entitled officially to information about it. (It is worthy
of notice that the "MY," which occurs four
times in this one verse--thrice of His
kingdom, and once of His servants--is put
in the emphatic form).
37. Art thou a king then?--There was no sarcasm or disdain
in this question (as THOLUCK, ALFORD, and others, allege),
else our Lord's answer would have been different.
Putting emphasis upon "thou," his question
betrays a mixture of surprise and uneasiness,
partly at the possibility of there being, after all,
something dangerous under the claim, and partly from a
certain awe which our Lord's demeanor probably struck
Thou sayest that I am a king--It is
To this end was I--"have I
born and for this cause came I--am I
into the world, that I may bear
witness to the truth--His birth expresses His
manhood; His coming into the world, His existence
before assuming humanity: The truth, then, here affirmed,
though Pilate would catch little of it, was that His
Incarnation was expressly in order to the assumption of
Royalty in our nature. Yet, instead of saying, He came
to be a King, which is His meaning, He says He came to
testify to the truth. Why this? Because, in such
circumstances it required a noble courage not to flinch
from His royal claims; and our Lord, conscious that He
was putting forth that courage, gives a turn to His
confession expressive of it. It is to this that Paul
alludes, in those remarkable words to Timothy: "I
charge thee before God, who quickeneth all things, and
before Christ Jesus, who, in the presence of Pontius
Pilate, witnessed the good confession" (
1Ti 6:13). This one act of our Lord's life, His
courageous witness-bearing before the governor, was
selected as an encouraging example of the fidelity
which Timothy ought to display. As the Lord (says OLSHAUSEN
beautifully) owned Himself the Son of God before the
most exalted theocratic council, so He confessed His
regal dignity in presence of the representative of the
highest political authority on earth.
Every one that is of the truth heareth
my voice--Our Lord here not only affirms that His word had
in it a self-evidencing, self-recommending power, but
gently insinuated the true secret of the growth and
grandeur of His kingdom--as A KINGDOM OF TRUTH, in its
highest sense, into which all souls who have learned to
live and count all things but loss for the truth are, by a
most heavenly attraction, drawn as into their proper
element; THE KING of whom Jesus is, fetching them in and
ruling them by His captivating power over their hearts.
38. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?--that is,
"Thou stirrest the question of questions, which the
thoughtful of every age have asked, but never man yet
And when he had said this--as if, by
putting such a question, he was getting into interminable
and unseasonable inquiries, when this business demanded
rather prompt action.
he went out again unto the Jews--thus
missing a noble opportunity for himself, and giving
utterance to that consciousness of the want of all
intellectual and moral certainty, which was the feeling of
every thoughtful mind at that time. "The only
certainty," says the elder PLINY, "is that
nothing is certain, nor more miserable than man, nor more
proud. The fearful laxity of morals at that time must
doubtless be traced in a great degree to this skepticism.
The revelation of the eternal truth alone was able to
breathe new life into ruined human nature, and that in the
apprehension of complete redemption"
and saith unto them--in the hearing of
our Lord, who had been brought forth.
I find in him no fault--no crime. This
so exasperated "the chief priests and elders"
that, afraid of losing their prey, they poured forth a
volley of charges against Him, as appears from
Lu 23:4, 5: on Pilate's affirming His innocence,
"they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth
up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning
from Galilee to this place." They see no hope of
getting Pilate's sanction to His death unless they can
fasten upon Him a charge of conspiracy against the
government; and as Galilee was noted for its
Lu 13:1; Ac 5:37), and our Lord's ministry lay
chiefly there, they artfully introduce it to give color to
their charge. "And the chief priests accused Him of
many things, but He answered nothing (
Mr 15:3). Then said Pilate unto Him, Hearest Thou not
how many things they witness against Thee? And He answered
him to never a word, insomuch that the governor marvelled
Mt 27:13, 14). See on Mr
15:3-5. In his perplexity, Pilate, hearing of Galilee,
bethinks himself of the expedient of sending Him to Herod,
in the hope of thereby further shaking off responsibility
in the case. See
Mr 15:6, and see on Lu
23:6-12. The return of the prisoner only deepened the
perplexity of Pilate, who, "calling together the chief
priests, rulers, and people," tells them plainly that
not one of their charges against "this man" had
been made good, while even Herod, to whose jurisdiction he
more naturally belonged, had done nothing to Him: He
"will therefore chastise and release him" (
39. But ye have a custom that I should release one unto you
at the passover, &c.--See on Mr 15:7-11. "On the typical
import of the choice of Christ to suffer, by which Barabbas
was set free, see the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus,
Le 16:5-10, where the subject is the sin
offering on the great day of atonement" [KRAFFT in
Joh 19:1-16. JESUS BEFORE PILATE--SCOURGED--TREATED
WITH OTHER SEVERITIES AND INSULTS--DELIVERED UP, AND LED
AWAY TO BE CRUCIFIED.
1-3. Pilate took Jesus and scourged him--in hope of
appeasing them. (See
Mr 15:15). "And the soldiers led Him away into the
palace, and they call the whole band" (
Mr 15:16) --the body of the military cohort stationed
there--to take part in the mock coronation now to be
2. the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on
his head--in mockery of a regal crown.
and they put on him a purple robe--in
mockery of the imperial purple; first
"stripping him" (
Mt 27:28) of His own outer garment. The robe may have
been the "gorgeous" one in which Herod arrayed
and sent Him back to Pilate (
Lu 23:11). "And they put a reed into His right
Mt 27:29) --in mockery of the regal scepter.
"And they bowed the knee before Him" (
3. And said, Hail, King of the Jews!--doing Him derisive
homage, in the form used on approaching the emperors.
"And they spit upon Him, and took the reed and smote
Him on the head" (
Mt 27:30). The best comment on these affecting details
is to cover the face.
4, 5. Pilate . . . went forth again, and saith
. . . Behold, I bring him forth to you--am
bringing, that is, going to bring him forth to you.
that ye may know I find no fault in
him--and, by scourging Him and allowing the soldiers to
make sport of Him, have gone as far to meet your
exasperation as can be expected from a judge.
5. Then Jesus came forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and
the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the
man!--There is no reason to think that contempt
dictated this speech. There was clearly a struggle in the
breast of this wretched man. Not only was he reluctant to
surrender to mere clamor an innocent man, but a feeling of
anxiety about His mysterious claims, as is plain from what
follows, was beginning to rack his breast, and the object
of his exclamation seems to have been to move their
pity. But, be his meaning what it may, those
three words have been eagerly appropriated by all
Christendom, and enshrined for ever in its heart as a
sublime expression of its calm, rapt admiration of its
6, 7. When the chief priests . . . saw him, they
cried out--their fiendish rage kindling afresh at the sight
Crucify him, crucify him--(See
Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him,
and crucify him; for I find no fault in him--as if this
would relieve him of the responsibility of the deed,
who, by surrendering Him, incurred it all!
7. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by oar law he
ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God--Their
criminal charges having come to nothing, they give up that
point, and as Pilate was throwing the whole responsibility
upon them, they retreat into their own Jewish law, by
which, as claiming equality with God (see
Joh 5:18 and Joh 8:59), He ought to die; insinuating
that it was Pilate's duty, even as civil governor, to
protect their law from such insult.
8-11. When Pilate . . . heard this saying, he was
the more afraid--the name "SON OF GOD," the lofty
sense evidently attached to it by His Jewish accusers, the
dialogue he had already held with Him, and the dream of his
Mt 27:19), all working together in the breast of the
9. and went again into the judgment hall, and saith to
Jesus, Whence art thou?--beyond all doubt a question
relating not to His mission but to His personal
Jesus gave him no answer--He had said
enough; the time for answering such a question was past;
the weak and wavering governor is already on the point of
10. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not to
me?--The "me" is the emphatic word in the
question. He falls back upon the pride of office,
which doubtless tended to blunt the workings of his
knowest thou not that I have power to
crucify thee, and have power to release thee?--said to work
upon Him at once by fear and by hope.
11. Thou couldest--rather, "shouldst."
have no power at all against
me--neither to crucify nor to release, nor to do anything
whatever against Me [BENGEL].
except it were--"unless it had
given thee from above--that is,
"Thou thinkest too much of thy power, Pilate: against
Me that power is none, save what is meted out to thee by
special divine appointment, for a special end."
therefore he that delivered me unto
thee--Caiaphas, too wit--but he only as representing the
Jewish authorities as a body.
hath the greater sin--as having better
opportunities and more knowledge of such matters.
12-16. And from thenceforth--particularly this speech,
which seems to have filled him with awe, and redoubled his
Pilate sought to release him--that is,
to gain their consent to it, for he could have done
it at once on his authority.
but the Jews cried--seeing their
advantage, and not slow to profit by it. If thou let this
man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend,
&c.--"This was equivalent to a threat of
impeachment, which we know was much dreaded by such
officers as the procurators, especially of the character of
Pilate or Felix. It also consummates the treachery and
disgrace of the Jewish rulers, who were willing, for the
purpose of destroying Jesus, to affect a zeal for the
supremacy of a foreign prince" [WEBSTER and
When Pilate . . . heard
that, . . . he brought Jesus forth, and sat down
the judgment seat--that he might
pronounce sentence against the Prisoner, on this charge,
the more solemnly.
in a place called the Pavement--a
tesselated pavement, much used by the Romans.
in the Hebrew, Gabbatha--from its
14. It was the preparation--that is, the day before the
and about the sixth hour--The true
reading here is probably, "the third
hour"--or nine A.M.--which agrees best with the whole
series of events, as well as with the other
he saith to the Jews, Behold your
King!--Having now made up his mind to yield to them, he
takes a sort of quiet revenge on them by this irony, which
he knew would sting them. This only reawakens their cry to
15. crucify your King? . . . We have no king but
Cæsar--"Some of those who thus cried died
miserably in rebellion against Cæsar forty years
afterwards. But it suited their present purpose"
16. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be
17. And he bearing his cross--(See on Lu 23:26).
Heb 13:11-13, "without the camp";
"without the gate." On arriving at the place,
"they gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall
[wine mingled with myrrh,
Mr 15:23], and when He had tasted thereof, He would not
Mt 27:34). This potion was stupefying, and given to
criminals just before execution, to deaden the sense of
Fill high the bowl, and spice it well, and pour
The dews oblivious: for the Cross is sharp,
The Cross is sharp, and He
Is tenderer than a lamb.
But our Lord would die with every faculty clear, and in
full sensibility to all His sufferings.
Thou wilt feel all, that Thou may'st pity
And rather would'st Thou wrestle with strong
Than overcloud Thy
So clear in agony,
Or lose one glimpse of Heaven before the time,
O most entire and perfect Sacrifice,
Renewed in every pulse.
18. they crucified him, and two others with
Lu 23:33), "thieves" (rather
Mt 27:38; Mr 15:27).
on either side one and Jesus in the
midst--a hellish expedient, to hold Him up as the worst of
the three. But in this, as in many other of their doings,
"the scripture was fulfilled, which saith (
Isa 53:12), And he was numbered with the
Mr 15:28) --though the prediction reaches deeper.
"Then said Jesus"--["probably while being
nailed to the CROSS,"] [OLSHAUSEN], "FATHER,
FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO" (
Lu 23:34) --and again the Scripture was fulfilled which
said, "And He made intercession for the
Isa 53:12), though this also reaches deeper. (See
Ac 3:17; 13:27; and compare
1Ti 1:13). Often have we occasion to observe how our
Lord is the first to fulfil His own precepts--thus
furnishing the right interpretation and the perfect Model
of them. (See on Mt 5:44).
How quickly was it seen in "His martyr Stephen,"
that though He had left the earth in Person, His Spirit
remained behind, and Himself could, in some of His
brightest lineaments, be reproduced in His disciples! (
Ac 7:60). And what does the world in every age owe to
these few words, spoken where and as they
19-22. Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross
. . . Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews
. . . and it was written in Hebrew--or
Syro-Chaldaic, the language of the country.
and Greek--the current language.
and Latin--the official language.
These were the chief languages of the earth, and this
secured that all spectators should be able to read it.
Stung by this, the Jewish ecclesiastics entreat that it may
be so altered as to express, not His real dignity, but His
false claim to it. But Pilate thought he had yielded quite
enough to them; and having intended expressly to spite and
insult them by this title, for having got him to act
against his own sense of justice, he peremptorily refused
them. And thus, amidst the conflicting passions of men, was
proclaimed, in the chief tongues of mankind, from the Cross
itself and in circumstances which threw upon it a lurid yet
grand light, the truth which drew the Magi to His manger,
and will yet be owned by all the world!
23, 24. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus,
took his garments, and made four parts; to every
soldier--the four who nailed Him to the cross, and whose
perquisite they were.
a part, and also his coat--the Roman
tunic, or close-fitting vest.
without seam, woven from the top
throughout--"perhaps denoting considerable skill and
labor as necessary to produce such a garment, the work
probably of one or more of the women who ministered in such
things unto Him,
Lu 8:3" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
24. Let us not rend it, but cast lots . . . whose
it shall be, that the scripture might be fulfilled which
saith, They parted my raiment among them; and for my
vesture they did cast lots-- (
Ps 22:18). That a prediction so exceedingly
specific--distinguishing one piece of dress from others,
and announcing that while those should be parted
amongst several, that should be given by lot to one
person--that such a prediction should not only be fulfilled
to the letter, but by a party of heathen military, without
interference from either the friends of the enemies of the
Crucified One, is surely worthy to be ranked among the
wonders of this all-wonderful scene. Now come the
mockeries, and from four different quarters:--(1)
"And they that passed by reviled Him, wagging
their heads" in ridicule (
Ps 22:7; 109:25; compare
Jer 18:16; La 2:15). "Ah!"--"Ha,"
an exclamation here of derision. "Thou that destroyest
the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself and
come down from the cross" (
Mt 27:39, 40; Mr 15:29, 30). "It is evident that
our Lord's saying, or rather this perversion of
it (for He claimed not to destroy, but to
rebuild the temple destroyed by them) had greatly
exasperated the feeling which the priests and Pharisees had
contrived to excite against Him. It is referred to as the
principal fact brought out in evidence against Him on the
Ac 6:13, 14), as an offense for which He deserved to
suffer. And it is very remarkable that now while it was
receiving its real fulfilment, it should be made more
public and more impressive by the insulting proclamation of
His enemies. Hence the importance attached to it after the
Joh 2:22" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON]. (2)
"Likewise also the chief priests, mocking Him,
with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others,
Himself He cannot save" (
Mt 27:41, 42). There was a deep truth in this, as in
other taunts; for both He could not do, having
"come to give His life a ransom for
Mt 20:28; Mr 10:45). No doubt this added an unknown
sting to the reproach. "If He be the king of Israel,
let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe
Mt 27:42). No, they would not; for those who
resisted the evidence from the resurrection of Lazarus, and
from His own resurrection, were beyond the reach of any
amount of merely external evidence. "He trusted
in God that He would deliver him; let Him deliver Him now
if He will have Him [or 'delight in Him,' compare
Ps 18:19; De 21:14]; for He said, I am the Son of
Mt 27:41-43). We thank you, O ye chief priests,
scribes, and elders, for this triple testimony,
unconsciously borne by you, to our Christ: first to His
habitual trust in God, as a feature in His character so
marked and palpable that even ye found upon it your
impotent taunt; next, to His identity with the Sufferer
of the twenty-second Psalm, whose very words (
Ps 22:8) ye unwittingly appropriate, thus serving
yourselves heirs to the dark office and impotent
malignity of Messiah's enemies; and again, to the true
sense of that august title which He took to Himself,
"T HE SON OF G OD," which He rightly interpreted
at the very first (see
Joh 5:18) as a claim to that oneness of nature
with Him, and dearness to Him, which a son has to
his father. (3) "And the soldiers also mocked
Him, coming to Him and offering Him vinegar, and saying, If
thou be the king of the Jews, save Thyself" (
Lu 23:36, 37). They insultingly offer to share with Him
their own vinegar, or sour wine, the usual drink of Roman
soldiers, it being about the time of their midday meal. In
the taunt of the soldiers we have one of those
undesigned coincidences which so strikingly verify
these historical records. While the ecclesiastics deride
Him for calling Himself, "the Christ, the
King of Israel, the Chosen, the Son of
God," the soldiers, to whom all such phraseology
was mere Jewish jargon, make sport of Him as a pretender to
royalty ("KING of the Jews"), an office
and dignity which it belonged to them to comprehend.
"The thieves also, which were crucified with
Him, cast the same in His teeth" (
Mt 27:44; Mr 15:32). Not both of them, however,
as some commentators unnaturally think we must understand
these words; as if some sudden change came over the
penitent one, which turned him from an unfeeling railer
into a trembling petitioner. The plural "thieves"
need not denote more than the quarter or
class whence came this last and cruelest taunt--that
is, "Not only did scoffs proceed from the
passers-by, the ecclesiastics, the
soldiery, but even from His
fellow-sufferers," a mode of speaking which no one
would think necessarily meant both of them. Compare
Mt 2:20, "They are dead which sought the
child's life," meaning Herod; and
Mr 9:1, "There be some standing here,"
where it is next to certain that only John, the youngest
and last survivor of the apostles, is meant. And is it
conceivable that this penitent thief should have first
himself reviled the Saviour, and then, on his views of
Christ suddenly changing, he should have turned upon his
fellow sufferer and fellow reviler, and rebuked him not
only with dignified sharpness, but in the language of
astonishment that he should be capable of such conduct?
Besides, there is a deep calmness in all that he utters,
extremely unlike what we should expect from one who was the
subject of a mental revolution so sudden and total. On the
scene itself, see on Lu
25-27. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother,
and his mother's sister, Mary, wife of Cleophas--This
should be read, as in the Margin,
"Clopas," the same as "Alpheus"
Mt 10:3). The "Cleopas" of
Lu 24:18 was a different person.
26, 27. When Jesus . . . saw his mother, and the
disciple whom he loved, standing by, he saith to his
mother, WOMAN, BEHOLD THY SON! Then saith he to the
disciple, BEHOLD THY MOTHER!--What forgetfulness of self,
what filial love, and to the "mother" and
"son" what parting words!
from that hour . . . took
her to his own home--or, home with him; for his father
Zebedee and his mother Salome were both alive, and the
latter here present (
Mr 15:40). See on Mt
13:55. Now occurred the supernatural darkness,
recorded by all the other Evangelists, but not here.
"Now from the sixth hour (twelve o'clock, noon)
there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth
Mt 27:45). No ordinary eclipse of the sun could have
occurred at this time, it being then full moon, and
this obscuration lasted about twelve times the
length of any ordinary eclipse. (Compare
Ex 10:21, 23). Beyond doubt, the divine intention of
the portent was to invest this darkest of all tragedies
with a gloom expressive of its real character. "And
about the ninth hour Jesus cried, ELI, E LI, LAMA S
ABACHTHANI . . . My God, My God, why hast Thou
forsaken Me?" (
Mt 27:46). As the darkness commenced at the sixth hour,
the second of the Jewish hours of prayer, so it continued
till the ninth hour, the hour of the evening
sacrifice, increasing probably in depth, and
reaching its deepest gloom at the moment of this mysterious
cry, when the flame of the one great "Evening
Sacrifice" was burning fiercest. The words were made
to His hand. They are the opening words of a Psalm (
Ps 22:1) full of the last "sufferings of Christ
and the following glories" (
1Pe 1:11). "FATHER," was the cry in the first
prayer which He uttered on the cross, for matters had not
then come to the worst. "Father" was the cry of
His last prayer, for matters had then passed their worst.
But at this crisis of His sufferings, "Father"
does not issue from His lips, for the light of a
Father's countenance was then mysteriously eclipsed. He
falls back, however, on a title expressive of His
official relation, which, though lower and more distant
in itself, yet when grasped in pure and naked faith was
mighty in its claims, and rich in psalmodic associations.
And what deep earnestness is conveyed by the redoubling of
this title! But as for the cry itself, it will never be
fully comprehended. An absolute desertion is not indeed to
be thought of; but a total eclipse of the felt sense
of God's presence it certainly expresses. It
expre'sses surprise, as under the experience of
something not only never before known, but
inexplicable on the footing which had till then
subsisted between Him and God. It is a question which
the lost cannot utter. They are forsaken, but they know
why. Jesus is forsaken, but does not know and demands to
know why. It is thus the cry of conscious innocence,
but of innocence unavailing to draw down, at that
moment, the least token of approval from the unseen
Judge--innocence whose only recognition at that moment lay
in the thick surrounding gloom which but reflected the
horror of great darkness that invested His own spirit.
There was indeed a cause for it, and He knew it
too--the "why" must not be pressed so far as to
exclude this. He must taste this bitterest of the wages
of sin "who did no sin" (
1Pe 2:22). But that is not the point now. In Him there
was no cause at all (
Joh 14:30) and He takes refuge in the glorious fact.
When no ray from above shines in upon Him, He strikes a
light out of His own breast. If God will not own Him, He
shall own Himself. On the rock of His unsullied allegiance
to Heaven He will stand, till the light of Heaven returns
to His spirit. And it is near to come. While He is yet
speaking, the fierceness of the flame is beginning to
abate. One incident and insult more, and the experience of
one other predicted element of suffering, and the victory
is His. The incident, and the insult springing out of it,
is the misunderstanding of the cry, for we can hardly
suppose that it was anything else. "Some of them that
stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth
for Elias" (
28-30. After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now
accomplished--that is, the moment for the fulfilment of the
last of them; for there was one other small particular, and
the time was come for that too, in consequence of the
burning thirst which the fevered state of His frame
that the scripture-- (
might be fulfilled saith, I thirst.
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar--on the offer of
the soldiers' vinegar, see on Joh
and they--"one of them," (
29. filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon--a stalk
hyssop, and put it to his
mouth--Though a stalk of this plant does not exceed
eighteen inches in length, it would suffice, as the feet of
crucified persons were not raised high. "The rest
said, Let be"--[that is, as would seem, 'Stop that
officious service'] "let us see whether Elias will
come to save Him" (
Mt 27:49). This was the last cruelty He was to suffer,
but it was one of the most unfeeling. "And when Jesus
had cried with a loud voice" (
Lu 23:46). This "loud voice," noticed
by three of the Evangelists, does not imply, as some able
interpreters contend, that our Lord's strength was so
far from being exhausted that He needed not to die then,
and surrendered up His life sooner than Nature required,
merely because it was the appointed time. It was indeed the
appointed time, but time that He should be "crucified
through weakness" (
1Co 13:4), and Nature was now reaching its utmost
exhaustion. But just as even His own dying saints,
particularly the martyrs of Jesus, have sometimes had such
gleams of coming glory immediately before breathing their
last, as to impart to them a strength to utter their
feelings which has amazed the by-standers, so this
mighty voice of the expiring Redeemer was nothing else
but the exultant spirit of the Dying Victor, receiving the
fruit of His travail just about to be embraced, and nerving
the organs of utterance to an ecstatic expression of its
sublime feelings (not so much in the immediately
following words of tranquil surrender, in Luke, as in the
final shout, recorded only by John): "FATHER,
INTO THY HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT!" (
Lu 23:46). Yes, the darkness is past, and the true
light now shineth. His soul has emerged from its mysterious
horrors; "My God" is heard no more, but in
unclouded light He yields sublime into His
Father's hands the infinitely precious
spirit--using here also the words of those matchless Psalms
Ps 31:5) which were ever on His lips. "As the
Father receives the spirit of Jesus, so Jesus receives
those of the faithful" (
Ac 7:59) [BENGEL]. And now comes the expiring mighty
30. It is finished! and he bowed his head and gave up the
ghost--What is finished? The Law is fulfilled as never
before, nor since, in His "obedience unto death, even
the death of the cross"; Messianic prophecy is
accomplished; Redemption is completed; "He hath
finished the transgression, and made reconciliation for
iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness, and
sealed up the vision and prophecy, and anointed a holy of
holies"; He has inaugurated the kingdom of God and
given birth to a new world.
31-37. the preparation--sabbath eve.
that the bodies should not
remain--over night, against the Mosaic law (
De 21:22, 23).
on the sabbath day, for that sabbath
day was an high day--or "great" day--the first
day of unleavened bread, and, as concurring with an
ordinary sabbath, the most solemn season of the
ecclesiastical year. Hence their peculiar jealousy lest the
law should be infringed.
besought Pilate that their legs might
be broken--to hasten their death, which was done in such
cases with clubs.
33. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead
already--there being in His case elements of
suffering, unknown to the malefactors, which might
naturally hasten His death, lingering though it always was
in such cases, not to speak of His previous
they brake not his legs--a fact of
vast importance, as showing that the reality of His
death was visible to those whose business it was to see to
it. The other divine purpose served by it will
34. But one of the soldiers--to make assurance of the fact
with a spear pierced his side--making
a wound deep and wide, as indeed is plain from
Joh 20:27, 29. Had life still remained, it must have
and forthwith came thereout blood and
water--"It is now well known that the effect of
long-continued and intense agony is frequently to produce a
secretion of a colorless lymph within the pericardium (the
membrane enveloping the heart), amounting in many cases to
a very considerable quantity" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
35. And he that saw it bare record--hath borne
and his witness is true, and he
knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe--This
solemn way of referring to his own testimony in this matter
has no reference to what he says in his Epistle about
Christ's "coming by water and blood" (see on
1Jo 5:6), but is intended to
call attention both to the fulfilment of Scripture in these
particulars, and to the undeniable evidence he was thus
furnishing of the reality of Christ's death, and
consequently of His resurrection; perhaps also to meet the
growing tendency, in the Asiatic churches, to deny the
reality of our Lord's body, or that "Jesus Christ
is come in the flesh" (
36. that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him
shall not be broken--The reference is to the paschal lamb,
as to which this ordinance was stringent (
Ex 12:46; Nu 9:12. Compare
1Co 5:7). But though we are to see here the fulfilment
of a very definite typical ordinance, we shall, on
searching deeper, see in it a remarkable divine
interposition to protect the sacred body of Christ from the
last indignity after He had finished the work given Him to
do. Every imaginable indignity had been permitted
before that, up to the moment of His death. But no
sooner is that over than an Unseen hand is found to have
provided against the clubs of the rude soldiers coming in
contact with that temple of the Godhead. Very different
from such violence was that spear-thrust, for which
not only doubting Thomas would thank the soldier, but
intelligent believers in every age, to whom the certainty
of their Lord's death and resurrection is the life of
their whole Christianity.
37. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on
him whom they pierced--The quotation is from
Zec 12:10; not taken as usual from the
Septuagint (the current Greek version), which
here is all wrong, but direct from the Hebrew. And
there is a remarkable nicety in the choice of the words
employed both by the prophet and the Evangelist for
"piercing." The word in Zechariah means to
thrust through with spear, javelin, sword, or any such
weapon. In that sense it is used in all the ten places,
besides this, where it is found. How suitable this was to
express the action of the Roman soldier, is manifest; and
our Evangelist uses the exactly corresponding word, which
the Septuagint certainly does not. Very different
is the other word for "pierce" in
Ps 22:16, "They pierced my hands and my
feet." The word there used is one signifying to
bore as with an awl or hammer. How striking are
these small niceties!
38-40. Joseph of Arimathea--"a rich man" (
Mt 27:57), thus fulfilling
Isa 53:9; "an honorable counsellor," a member
of the Sanhedrim, and of good condition, "which also
waited for the kingdom of God" (
Mr 15:43), a devout expectant of Messiah's kingdom;
"a good man and a just, the same had not consented to
the counsel and deed of them" (
Lu 23:50, 51 --he had gone the length, perhaps, of
dissenting and protesting in open council against the
condemnation of our Lord); "who also himself was
Jesus' disciple," (
being a disciple of Jesus, but
secretly, for fear of the Jews--"He went in boldly
unto Pilate" (
Mr 15:43) --literally, "having taken courage went
in," or "had the boldness to go in." Mark
alone, as his manner is, notices the boldness which
this required. The act would without doubt identify him
for the first time with the disciples of Christ.
Marvellous it certainly is, that one who while Jesus was
yet alive merely refrained from condemning Him, not having
the courage to espouse His cause by one positive act,
should, now that He was dead, and His cause apparently dead
with Him, summon up courage to go in personally to the
Roman governor and ask permission to take down and inter
the body. But if this be the first instance, it is not the
last, that a seemingly dead Christ has wakened a
sympathy which a living one had failed to evoke. The
heroism of faith is usually kindled by desperate
circumstances, and is not seldom displayed by those who
before were the most timid, and scarce known as disciples
at all. "And Pilate marvelled if he were already
Mr 15:44) --rather "wondered that he was already
dead." "And calling the centurion, he asked him
whether He had been any while dead" (
Mr 15:44) --Pilate could hardly credit what Joseph had
told him, that He had been dead "some time," and,
before giving up the body to His friends, would learn how
the fact stood from the centurion, whose business it was to
oversee the execution. "And when he knew it of the
Mr 15:45), that it was as Joseph had said, "he
gave"--rather "made a gift of"--"the
body to Joseph"; struck, possibly, with the rank of
the petitioner and the dignified boldness of the petition,
in contrast with the spirit of the other party and the low
rank to which he had been led to believe all the followers
of Christ belonged. Nor would he be unwilling to Show that
he was not going to carry this black affair any farther.
But, whatever were Pilate's motives, two most blessed
objects were thus secured: (1) The reality of our Lords
death was attested by the party of all others most
competent to decide on it, and certainly free from all
bias--the officer in attendance--in full reliance on whose
testimony Pilate surrendered the body: (2) The dead
Redeemer, thus delivered out of the hands of His enemies,
and committed by the supreme political authority to the
care of His friends, was thereby protected from all further
indignities; a thing most befitting indeed, now that His
work was done, but impossible, so far as we can see, if His
enemies had been at liberty to do with Him as they pleased.
How wonderful are even the minutest features of this
39. also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by
night--"This remark corresponds to the secrecy of
Joseph's discipleship, just noticed, and calls
attention to the similarity of their previous character and
conduct, and the remarkable change which had now taken
place" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
brought . . . myrrh and
aloes, about an hundred pounds weight--an immense quantity,
betokening the greatness of their love, but part of it
probably intended as a layer for the spot on which the body
was to lie. (See
2Ch 16:14) [MEYER].
40. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen
clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to
bury--the mixed and pulverized myrrh and aloes shaken into
the folds, and the entire body, thus swathed, wrapt in an
outer covering of "clean linen cloth" (
Mt 27:59). Had the Lord's own friends had the least
reason to think that the spark of life was still in Him,
would they have done this? But even if one could
conceive them mistaken, could anyone have lain thus
enveloped for the period during which He was in the grave,
and life still remained? Impossible. When, therefore, He
walked forth from the tomb, we can say with the most
absolute certainty, "Now is Christ risen from the
dead, and become the first-fruits of them that
1Co 15:20). No wonder that the learned and the
barbarians alike were prepared to die for the name of the
Lord Jesus; for such evidence was to the unsophisticated
resistless. (No mention is made of anointing in this
operation. No doubt it was a hurried proceeding, for fear
of interruption, and because it was close on the sabbath,
the women seem to have set this as their proper task
"as soon as the sabbath should be past" [
Mr 16:1]. But as the Lord graciously held it as
undesignedly anticipated by Mary at Bethany [
Mr 14:8], so this was probably all the anointing, in
the strict sense of it, which He received.)
41, 42. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a
garden, and in the garden a new sepulchre--The choice of
this tomb was, on their part, dictated by the double
circumstance that it was so near at hand, and by its
belonging to a friend of the Lord; and as there was need of
haste, even they would be struck with the providence which
thus supplied it. "There laid they Jesus therefore,
because of the Jew's preparation day, for the sepulchre
was nigh at hand." But there was one recommendation of
it which probably would not strike them; but God had it in
view. Not its being "hewn out of a rock" (
Mr 15:46), accessible only at the entrance, which
doubtless would impress them with its security and
suitableness. But it was "a new sepulchre"
Joh 19:41), "wherein never man before was
Lu 23:53): and Matthew (
Mt 27:60) says that Joseph laid Him "in his own
new tomb, which he had hewn out in the
rock"--doubtless for his own use, though the Lord had
higher use for it. Thus as He rode into Jerusalem on an ass
"whereon never man before had sat" (
Mr 11:2), so now He shall lie in a tomb wherein
never man before had lain, that from these specimens it
may be seen that in all things He was "SEPARATE FROM
Joh 20:1-18. MARY'S VISIT TO THE SEPULCHRE, AND
RETURN TO IT WITH PETER AND JOHN--HER RISEN LORD APPEARS TO
1, 2. The first day . . . cometh Mary Magdalene
early, &c.--(See on Mr
Mt 28:1, 2).
she runneth and cometh to Simon Peter,
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith unto
them, They have taken away the Lord out of the
sepulchre--Dear disciple! thy dead Lord is to thee
"the Lord" still.
3-10. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple,
and came first to the sepulchre--These particulars have a
singular air of artless truth about them. Mary, in her
grief, runs to the two apostles who were soon to be so
closely associated in proclaiming the Saviour's
resurrection, and they, followed by Mary, hasten to see
with their own eyes. The younger disciple outruns the
older; love haply supplying swifter wings. He stoops, he
gazes in, but enters not the open sepulchre, held back
probably by a reverential fear. The bolder Peter, coming
up, goes in at once, and is rewarded with bright evidence
of what had happened.
6-7. seeth the linen clothes lie--lying.
And the napkin, that was about his
head, not lying with the linen clothes--not loosely, as if
hastily thrown down, and indicative of a hurried and
together in a place by itself--showing
with what grand tranquillity "the Living One" had
walked forth from "the dead" (
Lu 24:5). "Doubtless the two attendant angels (
Joh 20:12) did this service for the Rising One, the one
disposing of the linen clothes, the other of the
8. Then went in . . . that other disciple which
came first to the sepulchre--The repetition of this, in
connection with his not having gone in till after Peter,
seems to show that at the moment of penning these words the
advantage which each of these loving disciples had of the
other was present to his mind.
and he saw and believed--Probably he
means, though he does not say, that he believed in his
Lord's resurrection more immediately and certainly than
9. For as yet they knew--that is, understood.
not the scripture that he must rise
again from the dead--In other words, they believed in His
resurrection at first, not because they were prepared by
Scripture to expect it; but facts carried resistless
conviction of it in the first instance to their minds, and
furnished a key to the Scripture predictions of it.
11-15. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping,
&c.--Brief was the stay of those two men. But Mary,
arriving perhaps by another direction after they left,
lingers at the spot, weeping for her missing Lord. As she
gazes through her tears on the open tomb, she also ventures
to stoop down and look into it, when lo! "two angels
in white" (as from the world of light, and see on Mt 28:3) appear to her in a
"sitting" posture, "as having finished some
business, and awaiting some one to impart tidings to"
12. one at the head, and the other at the feet where the
body of Jesus had lain--not merely proclaiming silently the
entire charge they had had of the body, of Christ
[quoted in LUTHARDT], but rather, possibly, calling mute
attention to the narrow space within which the Lord of
glory had contracted Himself; as if they would say, Come,
see within what limits, marked off by the interval here
between us two, the Lord lay! But she is in tears,
and these suit not the scene of so glorious an Exit. They
are going to point out to her the incongruity.
13. Woman, why weepest thou?--You would think the vision
too much for a lone woman. But absorbed in the one Object
of her affection and pursuit, she speaks out her grief
Because, &c.--that is, Can I
choose but weep, when "they have taken away,"
&c., repeating her very words to Peter and John. On
this she turned herself and saw Jesus Himself standing
beside her, but took Him for the gardener. Clad therefore
in some such style He must have been. But if any ask, as
too curious interpreters do, whence He got those
habiliments, we answer [with OLSHAUSEN and LUTHARDT] where
the two angels got theirs. Nor did the voice of His first
words disclose Him to Mary--"Woman, why weepest thou?
whom seekest thou?" He will try her ere he
tell her. She answers not the stranger's question,
but comes straight to her point with him.
15. Sir, if thou have borne him hence--borne whom?
She says not. She can think only of One, and thinks
others must understand her. It reminds one of the question
of the Spouse, "Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?"
tell me where thou hast laid him, and
I will take him away--Wilt thou, dear fragile woman? But it
is the language of sublime affection, that thinks itself
fit for anything if once in possession of its Object. It is
enough. Like Joseph, He can no longer restrain Himself (
16, 17. Jesus saith unto her, Mary--It is not now the
distant, though respectful, "Woman." It is the
oft-repeated name, uttered, no doubt, with all the wonted
manner, and bringing a rush of unutterable and overpowering
associations with it.
She turned herself, and saith to him,
Rabboni!--But that single word of transported recognition
was not enough for woman's full heart. Not knowing the
change which had passed upon Him, she hastens to express by
her action what words failed to clothe; but she is checked.
17. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not, for I am not yet
ascended to my Father--Old familiarities must now give
place to new and more awful yet sweeter approaches; but for
these the time has not come yet. This seems the spirit, at
least, of these mysterious words, on which much difference
of opinion has obtained, and not much that is satisfactory
but go to my brethren--(Compare
Mt 28:10; Heb 2:11, 17). That He had still our
Humanity, and therefore "is not ashamed to call us
brethren," is indeed grandly evidenced by these
words. But it is worthy of most reverential notice, that
we nowhere read of anyone who presumed to call Him
Brother. "My brethren: Blessed Jesus, who are
these? Were they not Thy followers? yea, Thy forsakers? How
dost Thou raise these titles with Thyself! At first they
were Thy servants; then disciples; a little
before Thy death, they were Thy friends; now, after
Thy resurrection, they were Thy brethren. But oh,
mercy without measure! how wilt Thou, how canst Thou call
them brethren whom, in Thy last parting, Thou
foundest fugitives? Did they not run from Thee? Did not one
of them rather leave his inmost coat behind him than not be
quit of Thee? And yet Thou sayest, 'Go, tell My
brethren! It is not in the power of the sins of our
infirmity to unbrother us'" [BISHOP HALL].
I ascend unto my Father and your
Father, and to my God and your God--words of incomparable
glory! Jesus had called God habitually His Father,
and on one occasion, in His darkest moment, His God.
But both are here united, expressing that full-orbed
relationship which embraces in its vast sweep at once
Himself and His redeemed. Yet, note well, He says not,
Our Father and our God. All the deepest of the
Church fathers were wont to call attention to this, as
expressly designed to distinguish between what God is to
Him and to us--His Father essentially, ours not so: our
God essentially, His not so: His God only in connection
with us: our God only in connection with Him.
18. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had
seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto
her--To a woman was this honor given to be the first
that saw the risen R edeemer, and that woman was not His
mother. (See on Mr
19-23. the same day at evening, the first day of the week,
the doors being shut where the disciples were assembled for
fear of the Jews, came Jesus--plainly not by the ordinary
way of entrance.
and saith unto them Peace be unto
you--not the mere wish that even His own exalted
peace might be theirs (
Joh 14:27), but conveying it into their hearts, even as
He "opened their understandings to understand the
20. And when he had so said, he showed them his hands and
his side--not only as ocular and tangible
evidence of the reality of His resurrection (See on
Lu 24:37-43), but as
through "the power of that resurrection"
dispensing all His peace to men.
Then were the disciples glad when they
saw the Lord.
21. Then said Jesus--prepared now to listen to Him in a new
Peace be unto you. As my Father hath
sent me, so send I you--(See on Joh
22. he breathed on them--a symbolical conveyance to them of
and saith, Receive ye the Holy
Ghost--an earnest and first-fruits of the more copious
23. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto
them, &c.--In any literal and
authoritative sense this power was never exercised
by one of the apostles, and plainly was never
understood by themselves as possessed by them or conveyed
to them. (See on Mt
16:19). The power to intrude upon the relation between
men and God cannot have been given by Christ to His
ministers in any but a ministerial or
declarative sense--as the authorized interpreters of
His word, while in the actings of His ministers, the
real nature of the power committed to them is seen in the
exercise of church discipline.
24, 25. But Thomas--(See on Joh
was not with them when Jesus
came--why, we know not, though we are loath to think (with
STIER, ALFORD and LUTHARDT) it was intentional, from
sullen despondency. The fact merely is here stated, as a
loving apology for his slowness of belief.
25. We have seen the Lord--This way of speaking of Jesus
Joh 20:20 and Joh 21:7), so suited to His
resurrection-state, was soon to become the prevailing
Except I see in his hands the print of
the nails, and put my linger into the print of the nails,
and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe--The
very form of this speech betokens the strength of the
unbelief. "It is not, If I shall see I shall
believe, but, Unless I shall see I will not
believe; nor does he expect to see, although the others
tell him they had" [B ENGEL]. How Christ Himself
viewed this state of mind, we know from
Mr 16:14, "He upbraided them with their unbelief
and hardness of heart because they believed not them which
had seen Him after He was risen." But whence sprang
this pertinacity of resistance in such minds? Not
certainly from reluctance to believe, but as in Nathanael
(see on Joh 1:46) from mere dread of
mistake in so vital a matter.
26-29. And after eight days--that is, on the eighth, or
first day of the preceding week. They probably met every
day during the preceding week, but their Lord designedly
reserved His second appearance among them till the
recurrence of His resurrection day, that He might thus
inaugurate the delightful sanctities of THE LORD'S DAY
disciples were within, and Thomas with
them . . . Jesus . . . stood in the
midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
27. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither . . .
behold . . . put it into my side, and be not
faithless, but believing--"There is something
rhythmical in these words, and they are purposely couched
in the words of Thomas himself, to put him to shame"
[LUTHARDT]. But wish what condescension and gentleness is
28. Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my
God--That Thomas did not do what Jesus invited him
to do, and what he had made the condition of his believing,
seems plain from
Joh 20:29 ("Because thou hast seen Me, thou
hast believed"). He is overpowered, and the glory of
Christ now breaks upon him in a flood. His exclamation
surpasses all that had been yet uttered, nor can it be
surpassed by anything that ever will be uttered in earth or
heaven. On the striking parallel in Nathanael, see on Joh 1:49. The Socinian invasion of the
supreme divinity of Christ here manifestly taught--as if it
were a mere call upon God in a fit of astonishment--is
beneath notice, save for the profanity it charges upon this
disciple, and the straits to which it shows themselves
29. because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed--words of
measured commendation, but of indirect and doubtless
painfully--felt rebuke: that is, 'Thou hast indeed
believed; it is well: it is only on the evidence of thy
senses, and after peremptorily refusing all evidence short
blessed they that have not seen, and
yet have believed--"Wonderful indeed and rich in
blessing for us who have not seen Him, is this closing word
of the Gospel" [ALFORD].
The connection of these verses with the last words of
Joh 20:29 is beautiful: that is, And indeed, as the
Lord pronounced them blessed who not having seen Him have
yet believed, so for that one end have the whole contents
of this Gospel been recorded, that all who read it may
believe on Him, and believing, have life in that blessed
30. many other signs--miracles.
31. But these are written--as sufficient specimens.
the Christ, the Son of God--the one
His official, the other His personal,
believing . . . may have
life--(See on Joh 6:51-54).
(That this chapter was added by another hand has been
asserted, against clear evidence to the contrary, by some
late critics, chiefly because the Evangelist had
concluded his part of the work with
Joh 20:30, 31. But neither in the Epistles of the New
Testament, nor in other good authors, is it unusual to
insert supplementary matter, and so have more than one
1, 2. Jesus showed himself again--manifested himself
and on this wise he manifested
himself--This way of speaking shows that after His
resurrection He appeared to them but occasionally,
unexpectedly, and in a way quite unearthly,
though yet really and corporeally.
3-6. Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing--(See on Lu 5:11).
that night . . . caught
nothing--as at the first miraculous draught (see on Lu 5:5); no doubt so ordered
that the miracle might strike them the more by contrast.
The same principle is seen in operation throughout much of
Christ's ministry, and is indeed a great law of
God's spiritual procedure with His people.
4. Jesus stood--(Compare
Joh 20:19, 26).
but the disciples knew not it was
Jesus--Perhaps there had been some considerable interval
since the last manifestation, and having agreed to betake
themselves to their secular employment, they would be
unprepared to expect Him.
5. Children--This term would not necessarily identify Him,
being not unusual from any superior; but when they did
recognize Him, they would feel it sweetly like
have ye any meat?--provisions,
supplies, meaning fish.
They answered . . . No--This
was in His wonted style, making them tell their
case, and so the better prepare them for what was coming.
6. he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the
ship--no doubt, by this very specific direction, intending
to reveal to them His knowledge of the deep and power over
7-11. that disciple whom Jesus loved, said, It is the
Lord--again having the advantage of his brother in
quickness of recognition (see on Joh
20:8), to be followed by an alacrity in Peter all
he was naked--his vest only on, worn
next the body.
cast himself into the sea--the shallow
part, not more than a hundred yards from the water's
Joh 21:8), not meaning therefore to swim, but to get
sooner to Jesus than in the full boat which they could
hardly draw to shore.
8. the other disciples came in a little ship--by ship.
9. they saw--"see."
a fire of coals, and fish laid
thereon, and bread--By comparing this with
1Ki 19:6, and similar passages, the unseen agency by
which Jesus made this provision will appear evident.
10. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish ye have now
caught--Observe the double supply thus provided--His and
theirs. The meaning of this will perhaps appear presently.
11. Peter went up--into the boat; went aboard.
and drew the net to land full of great
fishes, an hundred and fifty and three; and for all there
were so many, yet was not the net broken--The manifest
reference here to the former miraculous draught (
Lu 5:1-11) furnishes the key to this scene. There the
draught was symbolical of the success of their
future ministry: While "Peter and all that were with
him were astonished at the draught of the fishes which they
had taken, Jesus said unto him, Fear not, from henceforth
thou shalt catch men." Nay, when first called, in the
act of "casting their net into the sea, for they were
fishers," the same symbolic reference was made
to their secular occupation: "Follow Me, and I will
make you fishers of men" (
Mt 4:18, 19). Here, then, if but the same symbolic
reference be kept in view, the design of the whole scene
will, we think, be clear. The multitude and the
size of the fishes they caught symbolically
foreshadowed the vast success of their now fast approaching
ministry, and this only as a beginning of successive
draughts, through the agency of a Christian ministry, till,
"as the waters cover the sea, the earth should be full
of the knowledge of the Lord." And whereas, at the
first miraculous draught, the net "was breaking"
through the weight of what it contained--expressive of
the difficulty with which, after they had 'caught
men,' they would be able to retain, or keep them from
escaping back into the world--while here, "for all
they were so many, yet was not the net broken," are we
not reminded of such sayings as these (
Joh 10:28): "I give unto My sheep eternal life,
and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them
out of My hand" [L UTHARDT]? But it is not through the
agency of a Christian ministry that all true disciples are
gathered. Jesus Himself, by unseen methods, gathers some,
who afterwards are recognized by the constituted fishers of
men, and mingle with the fruit of their labors. And are not
these symbolized by that portion of our Galilean repast
which the fishers found, in some unseen way, made ready to
12-14. none . . . durst ask him, Who art thou,
knowing it was the Lord--implying that they would
have liked Him just to say, "It is I"; but having
such convincing evidence they were afraid of being
"upbraided for their unbelief and hardness of
heart" if they ventured to put the question.
13. Jesus . . . taketh bread--the bread.
and giveth them, and the fish
likewise--(See on Lu
14. This is the third time that Jesus showed himself--was
to his disciples--His assembled
disciples; for if we reckon His appearances to individual
disciples, they were more.
15-17. when they had dined, Jesus saith--Silence appears to
have reigned during the meal; unbroken on His part,
that by their mute observation of Him they might have their
assurance of His identity the more confirmed; and on
theirs, from reverential shrinking to speak till He
Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me
more than these?--referring lovingly to those sad words of
Peter, shortly before denying his Lord, "Though all
men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I
never be offended" (
Mt 26:33), and intending by this allusion to bring the
whole scene vividly before his mind and put him to
Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love
thee--He adds not, "more than these," but
prefixes a touching appeal to the Saviour's own
omniscience for the truth of his protestation, which makes
it a totally different kind of speech from his
He saith unto him, Feed my lambs--It
is surely wrong to view this term as a mere diminutive of
affection, and as meaning the same thing as "the
sheep" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON]. It is much more
according to usage to understand by the "lambs,"
young and tender disciples, whether in age or
Christian standing (
Isa 40:11; 1Jo 2:12, 13), and by the "sheep"
the more mature. Shall we say (with many) that Peter
was here reinstated in office? Not exactly, since he was
not actually excluded from it. But after such conduct as
his, the deep wound which the honor of Christ had received,
the stain brought on his office, the damage done to his
high standing among his brethren, and even his own comfort,
in prospect of the great work before him, required some
such renewal of his call and re-establishment of his
position as this.
16. He saith to him . . . the second time
. . . lovest thou me, &c.--In this repetition
of the question, though the wound was meant to be reopened,
the words "more than these" are not
repeated; for Christ is a tender as well as
skilful Physician, and Peter's silence on that
point was confession enough of his sin and folly. On
Peter's repeating his protestation in the same words,
our Lord rises higher in the manifestation of His restoring
my sheep--It has been observed that
the word here is studiously changed, from one signifying
simply to feed, to one signifying to tend as
a shepherd, denoting the abiding exercise of that
vocation, and in its highest functions.
17. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas,
lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said the
third time, &c.--This was the Physician's
deepest incision into the wound, while yet smarting under
the two former probings. Not till now would Peter discern
the object of this succession of thrusts. The third time
reveals it all, bringing up such a rush of dreadful
recollections before his view, of his "thrice
denying that he knew Him," that he feels it to the
quick. It was fitting that he should; it was meant that he
should. But this accomplished, the painful dialogue
concludes with a delightful "Feed My sheep"; as
if He should say, "Now, Simon, the last speck of the
cloud which overhung thee since that night of nights is
dispelled: Henceforth thou art to Me and to My work as if
no such scene had ever happened."
18, 19. When thou wast young--embracing the whole period of
life to the verge of old age.
thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst
whither thou wouldest--wast thine own master.
when . . . old thou shalt
stretch forth thine hands--to be bound for execution,
though not necessarily meaning on a cross. There is
no reason, however, to doubt the very early tradition that
Peter's death was by crucifixion.
19. This spake he, signifying by what death he should
glorify God--not, therefore, a mere prediction of the
manner of his death, but of the honor to be
conferred upon him by dying for his Master. And, indeed,
beyond doubt, this prediction was intended to follow up his
triple restoration:--"Yes, Simon, thou shall not only
feed My lambs, and feed My sheep, but after a long career
of such service, shalt be counted worthy to die for the
name of the Lord Jesus."
And when he had spoken this, he saith
unto him, Follow me--By thus connecting the utterance of
this prediction with the invitation to follow Him, the
Evangelist would indicate the deeper sense in which the
call was understood, not merely to go along with Him at
that moment, but to come after Him, "taking up his
20, 21. Peter, turning about--showing that he followed
immediately as directed.
seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved
following; which also leaned on Jesus' breast at
supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth
thee?--The Evangelist makes these allusions to the peculiar
familiarity to which he had been admitted on the most
memorable of all occasions, perhaps lovingly to account for
Peter's somewhat forward question about him to Jesus;
which is the rather probable, as it was at Peter's
suggestion that he put the question about the traitor which
he here recalls (
Joh 13:24, 25).
21. Peter . . . saith to Jesus, Lord, and what
shall this man do?--What of this man? or, How shall it fare
22, 23. Jesus saith to him, If I will that he tarry fill I
come, what is that to thee? follow thou me--From the fact
that John alone of the Twelve survived the destruction of
Jerusalem, and so witnessed the commencement of that series
of events which belongs to "the last days," many
good interpreters think that this is a virtual prediction
of fact, and not a mere supposition. But this is very
doubtful, and it seems more natural to consider our Lord as
intending to give no positive indication of
John's fate at all, but to signify that this was a
matter which belonged to the Master of both, who would
disclose or conceal it as He thought proper, and that
Peter's part was to mind his own affairs. Accordingly,
in "follow thou Me," the word
"thou" is emphatic. Observe the absolute
disposal of human life which Christ claims: "If I
will that he tarry till I come," &c.
23. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that
that disciple should not die--into which they the more
easily fell from the prevalent expectation that
Christ's second coming was then near at hand.
yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall
not die--The Evangelist is jealous for His Master's
honor, which his death might be thought to compromise if
such a misunderstanding should not be corrected.
24. This is the disciple which testifieth of these things,
and wrote these things--thus identifying the author of this
book with all that it says of this disciple.
we know that his testimony is
25. And there are many other things which Jesus
Joh 20:30, 31).
if . . . written every one,
I suppose--an expression used to show that what follows is
not to be pressed too far.
even the world itself would not hold
the books, &c.--not a mere hyperbolical
expression, unlike the sublime simplicity of this writer,
but intended to let his reader know that, even now that he
had done, he felt his materials so far from being
exhausted, that he was still running over, and could
multiply "Gospels" to almost any extent within
the strict limits of what "Jesus did." But in the
limitation of these matchless histories, in point of
number, there is as much of that divine wisdom which has
presided over and pervades the living oracles, as in their
variety and fulness.