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Ch. 12 is occupied with the occurrences of the last six days before the final Passover of Jesus. First, we have in vers. 1-8 His anointing in Bethany. John’s narrative does not profess to record the incident as a whole, with all its attendant circumstances; but only to give a series of supplements to his predecessors. He briefly sums up the fundamentals of the event, and as much as possible in their words. His additions are: the specification of the time of the supper; its connection with the resurrection of Lazarus; the name of the woman who anointed Christ; the name of the particular disciple who stimulated the opposition to Mary’s act in the circle of the Apostles, connected with a remark upon the motive of that disciple.
Ver. 1. “Then Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom He raised from the dead.”
The narrative connects itself with the end of the previous chapter by οὖ?ν . Jesus confounded the thoughts and machinations mentioned in ch. John 11:55-57, and which had their origin in His seclusion, by His actions: at the right time He came forward with the utmost publicity, and thus overturned all their notions.
With reference to πρὸ? ἓ?ξ ἡ?μερῶ?ν τοῦ? πάσχα—about six days before the Passover—comp. on ch. John 11:18.
Which way did our Lord take from Ephraim to Bethany? John does not say: we must therefore assume that the former Evangelists had given an account of this; and our expectation is found to be warranted. They all agree that our Lord in His last journey to Jerusalem passed through Jericho: comp. Matthew, in which the account of this last journey begins ch. Matthew 20:17, and goes on to Matthew 20:29; Mark 10:46 (the beginning of the narrative in ver. 32); Luke 19:1 (the beginning in ch. John 18:31). John’s predecessors also give us the reason why Jesus took the circuitous route through Jericho: the time of seclusion, John 11:54, had run out; and Jesus would now enter Jerusalem in full publicity. To the stately entrance which He contemplated, a large retinue was necessary. To gather these together, our Lord took the road leading through Jericho, which was in the high pilgrim-road through Perea. As soon as Jesus joined this track, great multitudes of people began to surround Him, Matthew 20:29: comp. Mark 10:46; Luke 18:36; Luke 19:3. These crowds, who doubtless came to Jerusalem the same day on which Jesus entered Bethany, spread there the report of His coming, set the whole city in commotion, and were the occasion that many came to Jerusalem even on the Sabbath; and that still more fetched the Lord on the ensuing day. The circuitousness, therefore, of the road gives no difficulty. Probably Jesus during the last time did not remain in Ephraim, but sought out the perfect solitude of the wilderness which lay between Ephraim and Jericho: comp. on ch. John 11:54.
How are the six days to be reckoned? The word Passover is, in the law, used only of the paschal lamb, and in Matthew and Mark only of the paschal meal. If here also in John it describes the whole festival, we must assume that the festival took its beginning from the meal, the name of which passed over to the whole week. Ch. John 13:1 makes this certain. There the “feast of the Passover” commences with the paschal meal; and the definition of the time there is all the more decisive, as the account is connected with our present one, and refers to the same feast. The paschal meal belonged to the evening of the fourteenth of Nisan, which, according to Jewish reckoning, begins at the same time the fifteenth Nisan. The paschal meal fell then on the Thursday evening. If we reckon six days backwards, Jesus came to Bethany on the evening of the Friday, the eighth of Nisan,—which, according to Jewish computation of time ( Leviticus 23:32), also began the ninth of Nisan,—before the rest of the Sabbath had begun. The first day went from the Friday evening to the Saturday evening; the second from Saturday evening to Sunday evening, and so forth. The “Supper” of our Lord must belong to the day of His arrival; for otherwise the words “on the next day,” ver. 12, would be meaningless,—a thing which, in John’s chronological style, is inconceivable, and more especially here, where the Evangelist defines precisely those points in the Passion week which were left undecided in the first Gospels. The “Supper” of Bethany was, doubtless, the principal meal of the Sabbath-day. The entrance into Jerusalem followed on the Sunday: the second or next day extended, according to Jewish reckoning of time, from Saturday evening to Sunday evening. Jesus tarried in Bethany at least thirty-six hours. It has been erroneously urged, that the chronology in the text interferes with the sanctity of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is still among the Jews preferred for the enjoyment of feasts. But the food was prepared previously; and even the tables must have been arranged in order before the Sabbath began. Nor does the fact that guests came from Jerusalem militate against the feast having been on the Sabbath. The ecclesiastical district of Jerusalem extended beyond the walls. “Lightfoot, in the Hor. Heb. p. 73, cites a mass of passages from Jewish writers, which establish that Bethphage was altogether regarded as if it had been situated within the walls of Jerusalem. The wall was thus considered as pushed outwards; and Bethany was no more than a Sabbath-day’s journey for the citizens of Jerusalem, although it was no less than fifteen stadia” (Wieseler, s. 435). The narrative of Luke 24:50-53, compared with Acts 1:12, makes it clear that Bethany was not more than a Sabbath-day’s journey from Jerusalem. Accordingly, the Sabbath would not throw any impediment in the way of the Jews’ coming to Bethany in order to see Jesus, as recorded in ch. John 12:9-11.
The other Evangelists make no express mention of the sojourn of Jesus in Bethany before the entrance into Jerusalem. But they do not imply that He passed by that place without spending the night; which is rendered improbable by the fact, that in their own accounts Jesus went out to Bethany every evening of the last week of His life upon earth: Matthew 21:17; Mark 11:11-12; and especially Luke 21:37. Jesus had spent the previous night with Zaccheus in Jericho: thus He had already made a long day’s journey when He reached Bethany. It is not probable that He first passed by Bethany and went to Jerusalem, and then returned back to the former place. There is a distinct intimation of the sojourn in Bethany before the entrance into Jerusalem in Mark 11:1: “And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, εἰ?ς Βηθφαγὴ? καὶ? Βηθανίαν πρὸ?ς τὸ? ὄ?ρος τῶ?ν Ἐ?λαιῶ?ν , unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives;” and Luke 19:29. Bethphage and Bethany form in these passages a geographical unity. Bethphage, alone mentioned in Matthew 21:1, is placed first in order, to intimate that Jesus had already left Bethany behind Him. Mark’s introduction of the latter word intimates that the Evangelists knew more than they narrate—that Jesus made Bethany His point of departure that day. The hint in Mark and Luke is fully developed in John.
But for what reason did the earlier Evangelists omit expressly to record the sojourn of Jesus in Bethany before the entrance into Jerusalem? The answer is simply, that their accounts had no point of connection with that sojourn, and did not require it for the sake of supplement. Luke had already, in Luke 7, independently of chronology, narrated the anointing, as an illustrative appendage to our Lord’s designation of Himself as the friend of publicans and sinners. Matthew places the account of it in ch. Matthew 26:6, etc., immediately before that of the treachery of Judas. He gives it without any reference to time. The τότε , corresponding to τότε in ver. 3, comes in ver. 14. So also with Mark in ch. Mark 14:3-9. Their narratives of the anointing are in both these Evangelists parenthetical insertions, without reference to time. They separate the account of the consultations of the high priests from that which records Judas’ offer of himself as their instrument. Both Evangelists subordinated chronological sequence, interrupting it in order to insert for a purpose an event which they had both reserved. But the reason why they mention the fact just where they do, is not what many, following Augustin, assume, viz. that Judas, in consequence of the anointing, and the waste which Jesus permitted, was filled with hatred and anger, and conceived the project of the betrayal. That Judas derived his instigation to treachery from that event is a mere fiction, for which there is no definite ground in the narrative. And it is decisive against this hypothesis, that Matthew and Mark do not mention Judas—whom John alone names; but they must have mentioned him had there been such a connection between the two events. The first two Evangelists place the story of the anointing immediately before the account of Judas’ treachery, in order to make more prominent the darkness of the traitor, in contrast with the light of Mary. The avarice of Judas, who sold Christ for thirty pieces of silver, is the perfect opposite of the ἀ?πώλεια of Mary upon Christ’s person. She gives what she has in perfect sacrifice, probably the last relics of her substance (comp. the ὅ? εἶ?χεν αὕ?τη ἐ?ποίησε , Mark 14:8); Judas, on the other hand, turns Christ Himself to gold. John only assigns here to the residence in Bethany, which the other Evangelists leave chronologically indefinite, its appropriate and true place in our history.
Bethany is described as the place where Lazarus was: he, since his resurrection, was the principal person in Bethany. The circumstance that he was there probably occasioned Jesus’ going—the remembrance of the miracle would thereby be freshened; it occasioned the feast which celebrated that event; and attracted the concourse of multitudes who came to seek Jesus, ver. 9. The fact that Jesus had called Lazarus from his grave, brought to Him the crowds which fetched Him from Jerusalem, vers. 17, 18. The description of Lazarus, on this mention of him, has a solemn amplitude, which was intended to arrest the reader’s attention to this person, and his high importance. Many copyists did not understand this. Hence some of them omitted ὁ? τεθνηκὼ?ς as superfluous; others, for the same reason, ὁ? Ἰ?ησοῦ?ς .
Ver. 2. “There they made Him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him.”
The phrase “making a feast” is commonly used of a greater and more special repast: comp. Mark 6:21; Luke 14:12; Luke 16:17. And the feast before us was of that kind. It served to celebrate the resurrection of Lazarus. The coming of Jesus was doubtless expected. All things had been prepared for the feast, and the guests had been summoned. That Martha played the hostess in her own house, is shown by Luke 10:38; Luke 10:40: comp. Matthew 8:15; Mark 1:31. It would not have been becoming for an eminent woman to have discharged such a service in another house than her own. Martha, the housewife, who had under her a company of servants, waited even in her own house only because the circumstances were extraordinary. Where “the Master” is present, who in ver. 26 says, “If any man serve Me, him will My Father honour,” it is perfectly becoming that the mistress should serve. That Lazarus was among the guests, had a theological significance: it was a demonstration of the truth and greatness of the miracle. Perfect reinstatement in the former life—and not merely the change from death into the state of a sick man—was required by the symbolical significance of the event.
Ver. 3. “Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.”
The whole conduct of Mary is, as Chrysostom remarked, that of a “broken-hearted soul.” Wichelhaus (Comm. on the Passion-history) observes, “She must have been similarly affected as the sinner of Luke 7.” That she anoints the feet of Jesus, that she unlooses her hair, to do which was held among the Jews a great disgrace, that she wipes with it the feet of Jesus—all exhibit her as the sinner and the penitent. Wichelhaus, who acknowledges all this, seeks in vain to prove that ch. 11 records a great transgression on the part of Mary. The nard, to which Pliny assigns the first place amongst unguents (H. N. xii. 26: de folio nardi plura dici par est, ut principali in unguentis), is mentioned only by Mark of the earlier Evangelists. Matthew speaks only in general of a costly ointment. The pound here corresponds to the “alabaster box” of Matthew and Mark. According to the metrological investigations of Boeckh, λίτρα was not merely a weight of twelve ounces, but also a measure for liquids. A vessel which contained twelve ounces of water was the libra mensuralis, the metrical pound for liquid; and the ointment boxes were probably so made as to contain just one such metrical pound. Πιστικός is not, with many, to be understood in the sense of liquid; for an adjective derived from πίνω never occurs, and, moreover, potable in the sense of liquid would be a strange application of the word. It must rather be interpreted, with the old Greek expositors, that which might be trusted, real, genuine. The word πιστικός is not to be found in classical authors; for in the passage commonly adduced from Aristotle’s Rhetoric, πειστική is the reading now generally acknowledged. Yet we find in an Attic inscription (Boeckh, Corp. Inscript. i. 382), a Πιστοκράτης Πιστικοῦ? , both proper names of father and son, probably meaning the same. In later Greek, πιστικός was the supercargo, to whom the ship and its freight were entrusted; and then the man who stood representative of the company, and was bound to make provision for it. It was probably an expression of common life, and specifically a commercial terminus technicus. This interpretation is made the more probable by the fact that nard was so frequently adulterated. Pliny, xii. 26, says: Adulteratur et Pseudonardo herba . . . Sinceruni quidem levitate deprehenditur. Again, xiii. 1: Conveniet meminisse herbarum quae nardum Indicum imitentur, species novem a nobis dictas esse: tanta materia adulterandi est. Tibullus speaks of the nardus pura; and in Galen we find the expression ἀ?κέραιον applied to it. Pliny, xii. 26, assigns to genuine nard the value of a hundred denarii to the pound. Butthat could not have been its highest price; for Pliny gives to nard the supreme place among unguents, but at the same time mentions another species which he declares to be worth from 25 to 300 denarii: comp. ver. 5.
Vers. 4, 5. The ἐ?κ τῶ?ν μ . αὐ?τοῦ? refers to the οἱ? μαθηταὶ? αὐ?τοῦ? , not as a correction, but as supplementary. That Judas was only the originator of the complaint, is plain from the reproof administered to more than one in ver. 8. What Judas alleges is so specious and plausible, that the record of the other Evangelists may easily be believed as quite natural. “For luxurious and prodigal feasts,” says Wichelhaus, “such an anointing might have been appropriate; but what end could such luxury upon Jesus serve? What reasonable man would not have agreed with Judas in this censure?”
Merely for distinction from the other Judas, the Σίμωνος alone would have been sufficient. The surname Iscariot, the man of lies, is added, because it was now that Judas declared himself to be essentially what that name signified; he disguised his covetousness and lust of thieving under the semblance of pious care for the poor: comp. ver. 6. “Who should betray Him “has also its special significance here. While he in his avarice was exhibiting his anger against this expression of love to Jesus, he was proving himself a worthy candidate for betraying Jesus through avarice. Three hundred pence or denarii, nearly ten pounds, was to these disciples a large sum. It is characteristic of Judas, the type of later money-making Jews, that he so accurately knows the price of a thing with which he had nothing to do. Even if we had not the narrative of John, this valuation of the ointment, which Mark also gives, would of itself have pointed to Judas.
Ver. 6. “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.”—Βαστάζειν always in the New Testament means to carry; so even in ch. John 20:15, where the bearing is only by the context determined to be a carrying away. Βαστάζειν itself never stands for appropriating, or spending on itself; nor is the ἐ?βάστασε pleonastic, if we take the verb in its usual meaning of carrying. The new element lies in the τὰ? βαλλόμενα , which specifies the contents of the common bag, and shows that it was filled by affectionate gifts. This new appendage to the sentence required a new verb. That Judas had the bag is remarked also in ch. John 13:29; whence we see that this bag served both for the supply of the necessities of the company, and for charities to the poor. The contributions to this common stock came, according to Luke 8:3, principally from women. As Judas had the bag and carried these contributions, he had good opportunity for appropriation. Obviously, he must have often given occasion for such a suspicion; but his fellow-disciples, observing the law of love, had kept down this fearful suspicion, receiving his justification, however little plausibility it might have. After his betrayal, all these grounds of suspicion returned to them in full force.
It can scarcely fail to be acknowledged, that the provision of this bag stands in some relation to 2 Chronicles 24:8, the only passage in which the Septuagint employs γλωσσόκομον . There we find that, by command of king Joash, they made a chest, and deposited it in the forecourt of the Temple; that all the princes and all the people brought joyfully their Temple tribute, ἐ?νεβαλον εἰ?ς τὸ? γλωσσόκομον : comp. βάλλειν , used of throwing gifts into God’s treasury, Matthew 27:6; Mark 12:41; Luke 21:1. Jesus explains, in Matthew 17:26, that He, as the Son of God, was rightfully free from the obligation of Temple tribute. By adopting as a pattern the institution in 2 Chronicles 24, He arrogated to Himself what in that passage was devoted to Jehovah. The negative in Matthew 17, and the positive, rest upon the same ground. It was in the most proper sense a Divine chest, and theft from it was robbery of God. Christ appointed this provision as a type and example for His Church. Origen calls the ecclesiastical poor-steward ἐ?κκλησίας ἔ?χοντα γλωσσόκομον .
We do not read that Jesus gave the bag into the charge of Judas: probably he pressed himself into this service, and Jesus suffered it to be so. But how could He have done this, when, as the Son of God, He knew what was in man, ch. John 2:25, and had, in particular, penetrated the heart of Judas from the beginning? (Comp. on ch. John 6:71.) Lampe answers this question with perfect propriety: “It is part of the adorable ways of Divine Providence in regard to sin, that sinners are placed in circumstances in which their wickedness must break out.” Jesus let Judas have the bag, not although he was, but because he was, a covetous man. The promise contained in the petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” like the promises contained in all of them, applies only to the sincere and rightly disposed. That Judas was not one of these, was manifested by the fact that he forced himself into the keeping of the bag. Had he been honestly disposed, he would, considering his bias to covetousness, have been anxious to keep himself as far from money as possible. But as he served avarice, it was part of his doom that the bag was committed to his hands. Criminal records present in relation to this the most manifold analogies. Most transgressors become such by opportunity presented to them. That which slumbers within them is often aroused by remarkable concatenations of events pointing plainly to the finger of God’s providence. To keep them back from such temptation would not make them better; it would only hinder their sin from reaching maturity, and showing its full fruits, which is the condition of thorough reformation if this be still possible, and the foundation of judgment if not. To doubt that Jesus marked the defalcations of Judas, is to doubt of His Divinity. The abomination of covetousness He had probably often dilated on to His disciples, with express reference to Judas. Having done that. He did all. Since Judas had no hearing ear, the Lord would not violently break in upon the development of his sin. He must fulfil his destiny.
Ver. 7. “Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of My burying hath she kept this.”
The gentleness of Jesus in His reproof shows that, as the other Evangelists expressly record, the murmuring was shared in by such as had no evil thought, and required to be gently dealt with. Burial is not the interment itself, but the preparations for it. The day or the time of burial was already come, inasmuch as the death of Jesus was immediately impending. We are not justified in having recourse to the notion of a providential arrangement of circumstances, or to explain the keeping and the using of the ointment “as an unconscious prophetic act,” and to go on with Stier: “Mary designed only to pay the Lord a tribute of honour appropriate to the feast, and does not, for her own part, think of any burial or embalming.” We may rather regard it as on all accounts probable that the thought of the impending death of Jesus filled Mary’s soul, and was the reason why she reserved for future use the ointment, which otherwise she would have sold for the good of the poor. What Jesus had already plainly declared in Galilee, Matthew 16:21; what He had so expressly told His disciples at the outset of the present final journey. Matthew 20:17, Mark 10:32-34, Luke 18:31-34; what was not unknown even to His enemies, Matthew 27:63—could not have been concealed from Mary, occupying the position which she did. She who hung on the Lord’s lips, Luke 10:39, had hidden this deep in her heart. The extravagance of her honour to Jesus sprang in part from the consciousness that it was the last honour she would do Him, the last expression of her thankfulness for all that He had done for her, the unworthy. This consciousness must be appealed to as the only moral justification of her act. The mere providential significance of the act would not be sufficient for that purpose. The reading ha ἵ?να εἰ?ς τὴ?ν ἡ?μέραν τοῦ? ἐ?νταφιασμοῦ? μου τηρήση αὐ?τό is, notwithstanding its high authentication, a mere correction introduced by those who supposed the ἐ?νταφιασμός could only be effected on the person of one already dead. It is opposed by the preceding narrative in John and the other Evangelists, according to which the whole of the ointment was then and there expended (it was the waste of it all that was the main element); by Matthew 26:12, Mark 14:8, according to which Mary anointed Christ beforehand; by Mark 14:6, where the ἄ?φες αὐ?τήν forms a clause of itself; as well as by the current use of ἄ?φες , ἄ?φετε , in the Gospels, which usually indicates a brief despatch. Ewald explains, “Let her keep it for the day of My burial.” But αὐ?τό too evidently refers to the μύρου , as Mark 14:8 also vouches. Τηρεῖ?ν is used precisely as in ch. John 2:10.
Ver. 8. “For the poor always ye have with you; but Me ye have not always.”
Jesus alludes to Deuteronomy 15:11, “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying. Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy in thy land,” with which ver. 4 there does not stand in contradiction, “there shall be no poor among you;” for there it is asserted that, on the whole, wealth and well-being should be the rule, which would naturally admit exceptions. That the “Me ye have not always” does not contradict the “I am with you always,” needs no demonstration.
The words of Jesus show that we must be on our guard against admitting the common utilitarian principle too largely in the Church. What, looked at in the light of this principle, appears to be waste, may have its full justification as the expression of thankful love and glowing devotion. A deeper consideration will make it plain that this seeming waste often accomplishes more than those applications of money which plainly proclaim their practical uses. The cathedrals are not less necessary than the parish churches to the maintenance of Christian worship.
In vers. 9-11 we have the excitement which the coming of Jesus produced in the city.
Ver. 9. “Much people of the Jews therefore knew that He was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom He had raised from the dead.”
It is plain enough that the word Jews here is not used with a hostile meaning, but that only their nationality is thereby denoted: comp. on ch. John 1:19. Persons are here spoken of who are under an attraction to Christ. These were found especially amongst the strangers who came up to the feast (comp. ver. 12); for the people of the place would have had earlier opportunities of seeing Lazarus. If Jesus tarried thirty-six hours in Bethany, there was ample time for their coming. The report of His arrival in Bethany was doubtless soon spread in Jerusalem by those who had accompanied Him.
Vers. 10, 11. “But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.”—“Lazarus also,” no less than Christ, ch. John 11:53. Such a thought, albeit transitory, came to the high priests when they observed the great excitement of the people: ἐ?σείσθη ἡ? πόλις ,—which Matthew, in ch. Matthew 21:10, remarks concerning the entrance of Christ,—was already true here. The fact that they wanted to kill Lazarus, shows that they regarded the miracle of his resurrection as a concerted scheme, just as the Pharisees endeavoured to set aside the greater fact of the resurrection of Christ by an imputation of deceit. All that Christ gained was so much lost to the high priests. In ὑ?πῆ?γον , which simply corresponds to the ἦ?λθον of ver. 9, Lampe sees too much meaning, when he makes it signify the people’s forsaking the priestly chair to express their contempt of the priests
Vers. 12, 13. “On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
On the next day: after the arrival of Jesus in Bethany, and after the supper held on the same day. The entry followed doubtless on the Sunday forenoon. It cannot be detached from the tenth Nisan, inasmuch as it was on this day that the typical paschal lamb was set apart, Exodus 12:3. As Jesus declares Himself to be the antitype of the Passover, it was doubtless with reference to this that He chose the day of entrance. Nor is it without significance that it was on the same day the people under Joshua went up from the Jordan, to begin their warfare with the powers of Canaan, Joshua 4:19. That war was the type of “the judgment of this world,” which was by Jesus, the true Joshua, to be accomplished. The “great multitude” consisted, doubtless, for the most part, of Galileans. In the capital, where the Pharisaic spirit was concentrated, and which the prophet had always indicated as the centre of destruction, Micah 1:5, the number of susceptible spirits was much smaller than in the provinces. Βαΐα are of themselves palm-branches; but τῶ?ν φοινίκων is added, because that botanical technical term might not be understood in lands where the palm did not grow. “The branches of the palms” are simply palm-branches; and the repeated article has here, as in so many other cases, been made much more of than necessary. They are palms in opposition to other trees, and their branches to other parts of the tree.
The meaning of palm-branches we learn from Leviticus 23:40. There the children of Israel were commanded, in the Feast of Tabernacles, to take green branches of palms, and the boughs of thick trees; and they were to rejoice before the Lord seven days. The present festal rite was therefore an expression of joy, the object of which was the coming of the so long expected King. In the prophetic passage, which forms the centre of the whole event, the “Rejoice, O daughter of Zion!” corresponds to the bearing of palm-branches. This rejoicing found in the palm-branches its external expression: so the bearing of green branches and palms is in 2Ma_10:7 the symbol of joy. Parallel with this passage is Revelation 7:9. “If the palms are to be understood as palms of joy, the symbolical acknowledgment of the salvation which the name of Jesus pledges, then these two passages harmoniously coincide. As the people once expressed by this symbol their rejoicing in salvation, when Jesus the Saviour entered into the earthly Jerusalem, so now the elect express their joy when they are with Christ in the heavenly Zion.”
The acclamation of the multitude is taken from Psalms 118:25-26, “Save, Lord, we beseech Thee; blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord,”—words the application of which to the present occasion was all the more obvious, because, as Jewish writings testify, they were on other occasions used as a cry of joy in the public worship of the people. The psalm is a song of the Church’s gratitude, exalted by the goodness of God from the deepest depression to the highest glory. What befell Israel, when saved from the captivity, was only the type of the people’s deliverance in Christ.
That in the Hosanna, “Save now,” the people pray on behalf of their King, and only indirectly for their own salvation (in harmony with the prophecy, where the King נושע , is defended of God), is manifest from Matthew, who makes the people cry “Hosanna to the Son of David,” as well as from the correspondence of the following “Blessed be.” The word Hosanna must, in the time when John wrote, have become naturalized among the Christian congregations, even the Gentile ones; therefore he does not add the translation, as his wont is on occasion of introducing other Hebrew words. In the original Hebrew passage, the accents require us to construe “May He that cometh be blessed in the name of the Lord” (comp. my Comm. and Hupfeld): the name of the Lord, His historically manifested glory, is the source of blessing, ch. John 5:43. “I am come in My Father’s name,” furnishes no sufficient reason for construing otherwise. Luke 19:38 makes it manifest that ἐ?ν ὀ?νόματι is to be connected with εὐ?λογημένος . There the order is, Εὐ?λογημένος ὁ? ἐ?ρχόμενος , ὁ? βασιλεὺ?ς ἐ?ν ὀ?νόματι Κυρίου , not ὁ? βασιλεὺ?ς ὁ? ἐ?ρχόμενος . Βασιλεὺ?ς τοῦ? Ἰ?σραήλ serves more closely to define Him that was coming, and thereby at the same time to give the reason of the benediction imprecated on Him. Since the benediction manifestly should, as in Matthew, consist of three clauses, we must add, in thought, “Blessed be,” or “Hosanna,” to the King. The passages of the Old Testament in which the Messiah is described as King of Israel, have been adduced already on ch. John 1:50. Christ is here primarily marked out only as King of Israel. If he be King, it is self-understood that He is also the King absolute, the King without fellow. For He could be acknowledged as King by the multitude only on the ground of His Messianic dignity. But the people expected in the Messiah the King whom no other king should equal.
Chap. John 12:12-19
The Entrance into Jerusalem
The Apostle first gives the chronological specification which was wanting in the earlier Evangelists. Then he briefly sums up, down to ver. 15, what they had already written on the subject. To this resumé he appends his own contribution. First comes the remark, that the connection between this event and Zechariah 9, already observed upon by Matthew, was not perceived fully until Christ was glorified; then the relation it bore to the resurrection of Lazarus; and finally, how the Pharisees were affected by the whole proceeding. The arrangement of the whole section can be understood only when we perceive that the Apostle first recapitulates, and then supplements.
Vers. 14, 15. “And Jesus, when He had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.”
Why did Jesus, just at that time, enter so majestically into Jerusalem, with His passion before Him, and, as it were, beginning that passion by entering? The following section gives the answer. It will show that Christ demonstrated Himself by His sufferings to be King; that His death was the means of the realization of His dignity and attainment of His dominion; that by His death the prince of this world was to be cast out; and that Christ should, when He was lifted up from the earth, draw all men unto Him: comp. vers. 23, 24, 31, 32. This strict connection between the sufferings and the dominion was set forth in the prophet Zechariah. There the King cometh meek or afflicted, and riding upon an ass; and in this character of sufferer He speaks peace to the Gentiles, and obtains dominion over the whole earth.
The entry of Christ into Jerusalem had also, apart from the prophecy of the Old Testament, to which Matthew and John place it in relation, its own independent significance, otherwise we should hardly be able to understand the fact that Mark and Luke do not expressly intimate its connection with the prophecy. That our Lord enters Jerusalem in this festal manner, was intended to exhibit Him as now about to assert that royal dignity which until now He had in a measure concealed. But that He enters upon an ass was intended to symbolize the manner in which He would assert His royalty: to wit, in the way of humility that He ever pursued, as an example for His Church, which should never forget that her Head rode forward upon an ass when He assumed His kingdom upon earth. The ass signifies the Cross aspect and condition of the Church. The old Gentile Romans, who, according to Tertullian, called the Christians asinarii, in allusion to this event, understood it better than superficial expositors, who want to make the ass a symbol of peace. Into that same city which David and Solomon had so often entered amidst a retinue of proud horsemen, and upon magnificently caparisoned mules and chargers, the Lord now entered upon a borrowed ass, a pitiful “ass’s colt,” never before used for riding on. The trappings were represented by the poor garments of His disciples; His retinue consisted of those whom the world accounted mere rabble, upon whom the wise Pharisees and rich men of Jerusalem looked down with contempt. To him who had no eye for the glory that was concealed beneath, the whole matter must have seemed a pitiful comedy. That the ass was not in the East essentially more honoured than amongst ourselves, is proved by the Son of Sirach, ch. Sir_30:24 ( Sir_33:25 ), as also by the original passage in Zechariah, where the riding upon the ass is conjoined with the predicate עני , which can mean only afflicted. That a king should ride upon an ass at all, was, in the East, a thing unexampled; but here the King, as such, in His royal progress, rides upon it, and indeed upon a mere ass’s colt. The remembrance of this should be our encouragement when the Lord’s sad humiliation upon earth is reproduced in the providential course of His Church, and our warning against seeking too high things as His people. It should also be a caution to those who are always so ready to magnify every little stumbling-block in the Scripture into an argument against its divinity. Even in Scripture the Lord wears the garb of a servant; and in reference to it also holds good the word, “He comes riding on an ass’s colt,” as also, “Blessed is he that shall not be offended in Me.”
The remarkable εὑ?ρών , having found, altogether inappropriate had Jesus brought the ass with Him from Bethany, has an entire history behind it, which John, who omits all merely subordinate circumstances, and presupposes details as known, almost in express terms tells us to seek in the earlier Evangelists. The watchword, with the whole history resting upon it, is found in those earlier writers: comp. Luke 19:30, εὑ?ρήσετε πῶ?λον δεδεμένον ; ver. 32, ἀ?πελθόντες δὲ? οἱ? ἀ?πεσταλμένοι εὗ?ρον καθὼ?ς εἶ?πεν αὐ?τοῖ?ς ; Matthew 21:2; Mark 11:2; Mark 11:4. Mark and Luke mention only the young ass. The mention of the she-ass occurs only in Matthew, whose eye is ever keenly directed to the minutest details which exhibit fulfilment of Old Testament scripture. The original in Zechariah 9:9 runs fully thus: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation (saving Himself); lowly, and riding on an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” The variations here have been usually, but very superficially, explained on the ground that John cites from memory. But then they would not have been omissions; the quotation would not then have so literally coincided with the original as it does, apart from the first words, where the change, as will presently be seen, is an intentional one. The reason of the variation was rather the Evangelist’s design to direct attention to the main point which John had in view in narrating the accordance between the prophecy and its fulfilment, the riding upon a young ass. The lowly it was the less necessary to reproduce, because in the original it was covered by the “riding upon an ass.”
Instead of the “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion,” in the original, John has “Fear not, daughter of Zion.” But, so far as the meaning goes, the “Fear not” does not vary much from the original. The matter of the joy is here especially the redemption from the power of an oppressor, the Gentile power. This is shown by the connection with ver. 8, “And no oppressor shall pass through them any more, for now have I seen with mine eyes.” Accordingly, the “Fear not” is latent in the “Rejoice.” Lampe: Non nudum gaudium praecipitur, sed tale quod praecedentem timorem exactorum excipiebat. The “Rejoice” is only the negative translated into the positive. But John did not introduce the change in his own fashion simply; he rather derived the “Fear not” from Isaiah 40:9: “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength: lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God;” and at the same time, from Zephaniah 3:16, a passage dependent on this of Isaiah: “In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not; and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack;” with ver. 15 preceding it, “The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, He hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.” The change of the “Rejoice greatly” can all the less be fortuitous, inasmuch as Matthew also has introduced a remarkable variation upon these same words. He has instead, from Isaiah 62:11, εἴ?πατε τῇ? θυγατρὶ? Σιων , pointing in a most suggestive manner to the connection of these passages, and weaving the isolated utterance of Zechariah into the great tissue of passages dwelling on the same theme. We can, indeed, hardly doubt that John decidedly chose the universal formula of citation, καθώς ἐ?στι γεγραμμένον , in order to intimate that in his view the single passage of the original took its place in the midst of a much Avider and larger connection.
The “Fear not” denotes, according to the original passages, the absolute security of salvation. The miserable and lowly condition in which Zion lies as it were buried, and the apparent omnipotence of her foes, must not mislead her, and abate her confidence. The daughter of Zion must not fear, in spite of the lowliness of her King, and in spite of His sufferings. That which might seem to warrant fear, will in fact serve to remove it for ever. The King will vanquish the world, not merely despite His deep humiliation, but by the very means of that humiliation. Even to the present day He is then greatest when He seems to be least; and still with His disciples death is the way to life. Just when they are sinking deepest into the depths, the “Fear not” is most applicable to their case. John, quoting the Old Testament passage, must, in harmony with the phraseology of the Apocalypse, behold another daughter of Zion, still continuing to exist in the Christian Church, concealed behind that daughter of Zion whose destruction was impending when Jesus entered (indeed, the weeping over Jerusalem recorded by Luke, ch. Luke 19:41, was among the circumstances of the same entry), and was accomplished when John wrote. The μὴ? φοβοῦ? , as spoken to the common Zion, would have been meaningless. The true daughter of Zion meant by the Evangelist was for the moment represented by the multitude who cried Hosanna. It consisted really of those from among the Jews who believed in Jesus. And these were increased by believers from among the Gentiles. Both the exclusion from Zion and the adoption into Zion proceeded according to a spiritual principle. That in the time of the Evangelist the separation from the external Zion was perfectly accomplished, is shown by the manner in which John speaks concerning the Jews: comp. on ch. John 1:19.
Ver. 16. “These things understood not His disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things unto Him.”
There is a similar remark in ch. John 2:22. The opened understanding, and the glorification of Christ, stood in the relation of cause and effect. That event gave the Apostles an entirely new standard. They saw that beneath the deepest humiliation the highest glory might be hidden; that greatness could not be measured by the ell, but must be estimated according to a spiritual standard. Moreover, the outpouring of the Holy Ghost was connected with the glorification of Christ, ch. John 7:39, John 14:26; and that great gift raised the Apostles to a higher stage of knowledge and perception. Till that time their eyes were holden by their carnal Messianic expectations. The present event had too poor an aspect to allow them to discern in it the royal entrance of the King, who should speak peace to the Gentiles, and whose kingdom stretched from sea to sea, from the Euphrates to the ends of the earth, Zechariah 9:10. But when they learned to discern spiritual things spiritually, and to understand the hidden process of the Redeemer’s power, and the great difference between the kingdom of Christ, with its concealed glory, and the kingdoms of this world, their eyes were opened, and they obtained an insight into the connection between prophecy and fulfilment. The ἐ?ποίησαν includes especially the action of the people just recorded, and which also belonged to the fulfilment of the prophecy,—especially the Hosanna in correspondence with the designation of the Messiah as נושע , saved of God, in the prophecy. What Christ, and at His command the Apostles, did, cannot be brought under this point of view; because that Was done with the design to bring the prophecy to its fulfilment. But we may include the free action of the Apostles, which rested not upon the command of Christ, and did not recognise the reference to any prediction; as also the circumstance, that they found the ass, and that the owner of the ass suffered them to take it away. The relation which John sustained to the earlier Evangelists will not allow us to limit the ἐ?ποίησαν merely to what he recorded: we may, and Ave must, borrow the supplement of his account from his predecessors.
Ver. 17. “The people therefore that was with Him when He called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record.”
The next verse shows that their testimony did not rest upon their own personal eye-witness, but upon what they had heard from others. The same is made plain by ver. 12, according to which “the multitude” consisted of those who had come from abroad to the feast. But these could not have been eye-witnesses of the resurrection of Lazarus: they were at the time of that event far away from Jerusalem. Luther, translating “but the people who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the grave, and raised him from the dead, published the fact,” follows the incorrect reading ὅ?τε (Vulg. quando), which sprang from the false notion that μαρτυρεῖ?ν must needs infer the testimony of an eye-witness. Luke 19:37 gives us the general foundation for all that is peculiar here.
Ver. 18. “For this cause the people also met Him, for that they heard that He had done this miracle.”
The people here are identical with the people of vers. 17, 12. The supposition of another and different crowd is altogether baseless. In ver. 17 we have what the people did after they had joined Christ; in ver. 18, what they did when they came out to meet Him. Ver. 17 brings in a supplement to ver. 13; ver. 18, a supplement to ver. 12. The καί does not “distinguish between the crowd already accompanying Him and that which came to meet Him,” but points to the fact, that the resurrection of Lazarus was not only the matter of their praise who met Jesus, but the very reason that they came at all.
Ver. 19. “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves. Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.”
Among themselves is the same as to each other: the mere thoughts of the heart cannot be matter of historical record. That John was so well acquainted with the projects of the Pharisees (comp. ver. 10), suggests a middle person, who had some common relation to the disciples and to the Pharisees. And we naturally think of Martha as such—the wife of Simon—who must have heard in the family circle of her husband much that would otherwise have been concealed, Θεωρεῖ?τε is not to be taken as a question: comp. Acts 21:20. The Apostle rejoices over the embarrassment of the Pharisees: this is the only point of view in which we can regard the verse. Paraphrases like that of Grotius—“We must adopt stronger measures to carry out the decree of the council”—spring from a total misapprehension of John’s design. Everywhere we see that he takes pleasure in recording the opposition brought to bear against Jesus, and the shame to which his Master’s enemies were always put. In the contest between evil and good, the saying, “Ye see that ye prevail nothing,” must always hold from age to age. Ver. 24 shows that the deepest prostration of the good cause can never make this doubtful.
We have an Old Testament parallel in 1 Samuel 24:21, where Saul is obliged to say to David, “And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand:” comp. ch. 1 Samuel 23:17, where Jonathan says, “And thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth.” The relation of Saul to David was a kind of type of the relation of the Pharisees to Christ. The representatives of a bad cause have the secret consciousness that they fight against God. Therefore they must needs lose heart on every fresh reverse. That here also “This spake he not of himself” holds good—that the Apostle regards these words, which were extorted from the enemies of Christ, as a kind of prophecy, is plain, from the connection in which the succeeding narrative so manifestly stands with these words: Yea, verily, ye do nothing at all; all the world goeth after Him—not only the Jews, but even the very Greeks! These last were already sending their deputation; and as the result of their request, Jesus, in ver. 32, utters the word, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” Bengel here observes: A hyperbole springing from indignation. If the whole world, say they, were ours, it would desert us to go after Him. There lies in their words something prophetical.
Ver. 20. “And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast.”
It has been already shown, on ch. John 7:35, that Ἕ?λληνες never means Hellenistic Jews, but always Gentile Greeks. We must not think here even of circumcised Gentiles: these by their circumcision became Jews. Only in relation to born Gentiles, who had never been received by circumcision into the community of Israel, can the scruple of Philip and Andrew be understood; and only to them was appropriate the answer of Christ, who declined the desired audience, with an allusion to the fact that the wall of separation would soon by His death be done away. The true religion exercised, even in its imperfect Old Testament form, a mighty influence upon those deeper intellects in the Gentile world who had the opportunity of becoming more closely acquainted with it. Solomon says in the prayer at the dedication of the Temple, 1 Kings 8:41: “Moreover, concerning a stranger, that is not of Thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for Thy name’s sake; (for they shall hear of Thy great name, and of Thy strong hand, and of Thy stretched-out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house: hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling-place, and do according to all that the stranger prayeth unto Thee for; that all people of the earth may know Thy name.” In the days of Christ, the number of those Gentiles who were inclined to the Israelitish religion was rendered greater than ever before by the deeper degeneracy of the Gentile religions at that period. They appear in Acts 13:43; Acts 13:50; Acts 16:14; Acts 17:4; Acts 17:17, under the name of σεβόμενοι . They formed an admirable bridge for the passage of the Gospel from the Jews to the Gentiles. It could not be otherwise than that these,” God-fearers” would receive the tidings of the great works of God with peculiar delight and desire, Mark 7:26, ἦ?ν δὲ? ἡ? Ἑ?λληνίς , Συροφοινίκισσα τῷ? γένει , shows that by the term Greek, Gentiles generally of Greek tongue and culture were meant. Accordingly we need not assume Greeks from Greece to be signified here. That they applied to Philip of Galilee—by Isaiah called Galilee of the Gentiles—makes it presumable that they themselves also dwelt there, in one of its Greek towns. The present participle, ἀ?ναβαινόντων , is used, as in ch. John 9:8, in the Hebrew sense, without any definition of time. The notion of habitually going need not be introduced: that would have been much more specifically noted. It means certain from among the number of those who then had come up to the feast. The words “to worship” indicate that they were not the visitors generally—so that ch. John 11:55 might be brought into comparison—but the Gentile visitors, whose participation in the feast was limited to the προσκυνεῖ?ν , attributed to them by Solomon, and who had not received the sacramental rite. It is said of the chamberlain of Candace, in Acts 8:27, ἐ?ληλύθει προσκυνήσων εἰ?ς Ἰ?ερουσαλήμ .
Chap. John 12:20-36
Jesus and the Greeks
It was a remarkable coincidence, that on the very day when Jesus took leave of the Jews, and withdrew into seclusion, certain Greeks expressed the desire to see Him; and that Jesus was led by this desire to announce the near approaching extension of His kingdom among the Gentiles. Like the wise men from the east at Christ’s birth, these Greeks are to be regarded as types and representatives of the heathen world, destined to be received into the kingdom of Christ. But Bengel is not altogether right in describing the proceeding as “prelude of the transition of the kingdom of God from the Jews to the Gentiles.” Such a transition never in fact took place. This is proved by a glance at the multitude shouting Hosanna from among the Jews in the preceding section. Believers from among the Gentiles did not take the place of the Jews generally, but of the unbelieving mass of the Jewish people. The stem of God’s kingdom consisted of believers from the Jews, and into this stock the Gentiles were to be grafted: and it is this which the coming of the Greeks pretypified. That the scene occurred in the Temple, is evident from the circumstance that this was the ordinary scene of Christ’s work in the last days: comp. Luke 21:37, but specially from Luke 21:36, compared with Mark 13:1.
Ver. 21. “The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.”
Why did they apply to Philip in particular? His name gives the answer; he was the only one among the Apostles who bore a Greek name. Greek name and Greek culture went hand in hand. The respectful request κύριε shows that they were deeply concerned for the attainment of their desire. Κύριε is certainly the word which Mary uses to the gardener; but only at a crisis when she thought that she was dependent on him in a matter of supreme importance to her. The Greeks did not venture to go straight to Jesus Himself; they thought they must take hold of the skirt of him that was a Jew, Zechariah 8:23, like the Gentile centurion who sent the elders to Jesus, Luke 7:3. Their special desire had reference to a private and confidential colloquy. As Jesus taught openly, they might easily enough see Him in passing. But that kind of seeing was not of much value in itself.
Ver. 22. “Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.”
Philip and Andrew are united also in ch. John 1:45. That Philip did not venture himself to go directly to Jesus, that he first lays the matter before Andrew, and takes counsel with him,—whence many expositors have deduced the doctrine that it is expedient in difficult cases to resort to the counsel of at least one trusted friend,—shows that there was a For and Against in reference to the wish of the Greeks. As it respects the For, the participation of the Gentiles in the kingdom of Christ was unanimously attested by the whole of prophecy. Compare, for example, Isaiah 4:4-5: “Behold, I have given Him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. Behold, Thou shalt call a nation that Thou knowest not, and nations that knew not Thee shall run unto Thee;” with ch. Isaiah 56:3; Isaiah 56:7. According to the first personal Messianic announcement, Genesis 49:10, the people should gather to Shiloh. Christ had predicted, in the most express manner, the extension of His kingdom to the Gentiles, Matthew 8:11; He had held intercourse with the Gentile centurion, with the woman of Canaan, and with the Samaritan woman. But, on the other side, Christ had communicated to His Apostles the command not to go in the way of the Gentiles, and to enter no city of the Samaritans, Matthew 10:5; He had said to the woman of Canaan, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel;” He had just before the present occasion, Matthew 10:16, represented the calling of the Gentiles as dependent on His own atoning death, and thereby indirectly declared, that until His death the wall of partition which separated Him and His people from the Gentiles should continue. Thus it is explained why Philip first talked over the matter with Andrew, and that the two proffer no specific request to Jesus, but simply report to him the wish of the Greeks. The answer of Christ was a negative. The exclusion of the Gentiles was, until His atoning death, which broke down the middle wall, the rule. This rule admitted, indeed, certain exceptions, in order to pretypify the calling of the Gentiles. But this design had been already subserved; and it was specially befitting that the separation should be maintained inviolate now at the end, in order that the distinction between the two ages should be distinctly marked.
It does not follow from Philip’s consulting Andrew about the request, that the latter was the more spiritually advanced. Yet there are not wanting passages in which Andrew is the more prominent: Mark 3:18; Mark 13:3; Acts 1:13. There his name follows those of the three most confidential disciples of Jesus.
Ver. 23. “And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.”—“To them”
Andrew and Philip. There is no trace of any reception of the Greeks; on the contrary, the specific reference to the disciples, in ver. 26, shows that Jesus had to do with them alone. Moreover, the final result of Christ’s answer tends to this one thing, that the time for the admission of the Gentiles was not yet come. The criticism which asserts that “it is quite uncertain here whether the desire of the Greeks was granted, and to whom the address was uttered,” falls before a deeper consideration of the text.—“The hour is come:” the Gentiles therefore must only wait a little longer with patience, since, with the glorification of the Son of man, their union with Christ was immediately connected; and this is the issue of the whole discourse in ver. 32. As to the reason why our Lord here and elsewhere speaks not of the time generally, but of the hour, Beza makes a very subtle remark,—which will, by the way, serve to show with what propriety the Erlangen critic asserts the time to be come for dismissing the old veterans in exegesis to the rest they have merited: “The word hour seems more expressly to denote that providence of God which is not only universal, but most specific in all things, and especially in the mystery of our salvation: that providence in which God has ordered from eternity, not only the years, months, days, but even the most minute portions of time; and certainly this doctrine, as it is most sure, and harmonious with the nature, power, and will of God, so it most wonderfully confirms us in our faith and patience, in opposition to distrust and impatience.”—“That the Son of man may be glorified” has its commentary in ch. John 17:5, “And now glorify Thou Me, O Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” It pertains to the glorification of Christ, according to what follows, that He has much fruit, ver. 24, that He draws all to Himself, ver. 32; but that is not the proper essence of that glorification, which is rather the ceasing of the servant form, and His reception into the glory of the Father. Bengel gives us here the correct view: Apud Patrem, c. xvii. 5, et in conspectu omnis creaturae. Christi glorificatio et gentium conversio in unum tempus incidit.
Ver. 24. “Verily, verily, I say unto you. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”
In what has preceded there was the fact that the glorification of Christ was immediately at hand; here we have the hour of its accomplishment: the essential way and means to it, its inevitable foundation, was death. But because this was contrary to all natural reason, and because the disciples’ minds would recoil from it, and all the more as Christ’s suffering was the prophecy of their own, calling upon them also per aspera ad astra, therefore Christ here set out with a strong preliminary encouragement. In His words there is a remarkable blending of figure and fact. The spiritual seedcorn is Christ. That His death was absolutely necessary in order to His bringing forth much fruit, and drawing all to Him, ver. 32, has its foundation in the expiatory, vicarious significance of His death: comp. ch. John 10:11; John 10:15. In the fact of the atonement accomplished by Christ, the whole process of His dominion has its root. Isaiah 53 clearly taught that doctrine, especially in ver. 10: “When His soul hath made an offering for sin. He shall see His seed.” The thought is this, that in the sacrificial death of the Servant of God there was a quickening power; on that death He would found His living Church. “It bringeth forth much fruit” points back to Isaiah 11:1, where the branch out of the root of the stem of Jesse, the Messiah appearing primarily in humiliation, should spring forth and bear fruit; as also to Ezekiel 17:23: “In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it (the tender twig, ver. 22); and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit.”
Vers. 25, 26. “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 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.”
Following Christ’s pattern, all His servants also must willingly sacrifice all things to their calling; and thus shall they all share His glory. The two verses form a parenthesis. All the Gospels show it to be Christ’s manner to avail Himself of any opportunity to represent Himself as the pattern of His disciples. The death of Christ is distinguished, on the one side, from the voluntary offering up of life on the part of His servants. It is only Christ’s death that has consequences for all the world, brings forth much fruit, and effects that all are drawn to Him; the results of the death of His servants are only personal, in that they themselves attain eternal life, go where Christ is, and are honoured by His Father. But in the most general and comprehensive fact—the necessity of spiritual self-sacrifice, and death being not loss but gain—the Lord and His servants are alike. And it is only this general aspect of the matter that is here regarded. Expressions bordering on those of ver. 25 had been earlier uttered by our Lord, according to the other Evangelists; evidence how important it was, that this great thought should be deeply and indelibly engraven on the minds of the disciples: comp. Matthew 10:25-26; Matthew 10:39; Luke 45:26.—“He that loveth his life,” his soul: that is equivalent to “He that loveth his own individual existence,” himself. The soul is not here used, as in Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:22, in antithesis to the body; but it represents the whole person. In Matthew 16:24 we read, ἀ?παρνησάσθω ἑ?αυτόν , and then follows, “for he that will save his soul,” etc. Thus the soul is there also paralleled with the self. That in Luke 14:26 a man’s own soul is the man himself, is plain from the juxtaposition of these persons throughout, the father, the mother, etc. In the Old Testament the soul is frequently used for the whole personality: e.g. in Genesis 14:21, “Give me the persons (the souls), and take the goods to thyself;” Exodus 1:5: comp. Acts 2:41. The ground of this phraseology is to be found generally in the fact that the soul, as the breath of God, Genesis 2:7, the “honour,” Genesis 49:6, is the better part of man, and hence well fitted to represent the man. But here there is probably a specific reason for designating the whole person as the soul, in the fact that the subject here is the preservation or the loss of the life; now the soul and the life are closely allied in Scriptural phraseology.
The position contemplated is that in which the soul or the individual existence, and the calling or duty assigned of God, are opposed to each other. Now the first and chief commandment, to love God with all the soul, excludes all love to the individual I; the individual I, so far as it places itself in opposition to the vocation, must be hated. This hatred, directed not against the soul in itself, but against its undue claims, is at the same time the truest love to our own soul and life. It assures the soul of a secure place there where her proper home is alone to be sought. Μισεῖ?ν means simply hate; to love less it never means, either here or elsewhere in the Scripture. The father and mother, and so on, must, according to Luke 14, when they come into conflict with our relation to Christ, not merely be less loved, but be hated and energetically cast away. “In this world,” which is so poor in true professions, which can give and take away so little, and to give up for which the future world with that eternal life which alone is worthy of the name of life, is the greatest of all follies.
In ver. 36 we have first, in the words, “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me,” the duty which is to be discharged by His servants; then the reward. In a certain sense, there is a serving of Christ predicable of the laity. But that official service is here meant, appears first from the circumstance that the address is directed to the special and peculiar servants of God in His kingdom; but still more clearly, in the second place, from the succeeding words, “There shall also My servant be.” Διάκονος always denotes an official position: comp. Matthew 22:13; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 6:4. Grotius rightly remarks: “He here silently terms Himself a King who has many servants, for the administration of the things of His kingdom.” “Let him follow Me:” in the way of self-denial and consecration of life. Matthew 10:38 gives us a commentary on ἐ?μοὶ? ἀ?κολουθείτω : “Whoso taketh not up his cross and followeth Me, is not worthy of Me;” John 16:24, “If any man will follow Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me,” where ὀ?πίσω μου ἐ?λθεῖ?ν corresponds to the διάκονεῖ?ν here. Beneath this challenge, “Let him follow Me,” there lies a concealed promise. It is taken for granted that the way of the servants, no less than the way of their Master, is a way of the cross, to the voluntary assumption of which cross the ἀ?κολουθείτω is a challenge. In this aspect of it, Mark 10:38-39, is parallel, where Jesus foreannounces to the sons of Zebedee that they will drink the cup which He drank, and be baptized with the baptism with which He was baptized.—“And where I am, there shall also My servant be:” the commentary on this is ch. John 14:2-3, John 17:24. Christ takes His servants up into those heavenly dwellings whither He had gone before to prepare their place. As soon as they make their exit from this miserable life, they come to Him in Paradise, Luke 23:43, into the condition of heavenly blessedness, 2 Corinthians 12:4: comp. ver. 2. Of any intermediate condition, or Hades-life, the Lord knows nothing: comp. 2 Corinthians 5:8; Php_1:23 .
Ver. 27. This saying of our Lord is connected with ver. 24. In very deed, the dying of the seedcorn is not so light a matter. The soul of our Lord in the prospect of it was deeply troubled. But it must be so; it could not be otherwise. It was inseparably bound up with the great work that Christ was bound to accomplish. This trouble and this death, therefore, were the way to glorification. The words ἡ? ψυχή μου τετάρακται are taken from Psalms 42:6, ἱ?νατί περίλυπος εἶ? , ψυχή , καὶ? ἱ?νατί συνταράσσεις με , Why art thou disquieted? ver. 7; ὁ? θεός μου πρὸ?ς ἐ?μαυτὸ?ν ἡ? ψυχή μου ἐ?ταράχθη : comp. ver. 12; Psalms 43:5. To the same psalm, the expression of David’s deepest lamentation in his misery, the Lord also refers in Matthew 26:38, Mark 14:34. We obtain anything like insight into the nature and ground of this trouble of the Redeemer, only when we have obtained a right perception of the significance of His death. If the death of Christ was merely an “event” or “calamity” which befell Him in the way of His vocation, He would have gone to encounter it with cheerful confidence. Otherwise He would have stood on a lower level than His own martyrs,
Ignatius, for example, who wrote in the prospect of death, “It is glorious to give up the world to go to God, that I may have the sight of His face; let me be the food of beasts, so I may find my God. I am God’s corn; I shall be crushed by the teeth of wild beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” But that Christ’s death was something altogether different from a death of self-sacrifice in the ordinary sense, is shown by ver. 24, according to which the full power for the extension of His kingdom has its root in the death of Christ; and vers. 31, 32, according to which the Redeemer conquered, by His death, the prince of this world, and draws all men to Himself, abolishes the wall of partition which had hitherto excluded the Gentiles from the kingdom of God. The root and centre of the work of Christ is everywhere the vicarious expiation accomplished by His death; and with this was inseparably connected His bearing for us the wrath of God. John describes Him in ch. John 1:29 as the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world. In ch. John 3:14 Christ sets Himself forth as the antitype of the serpent in the wilderness, inasmuch as He assumed unto Himself the most deadly of all deadly energies, sin, and vicariously made atonement for it. In ch. John 10:11 seq. our Lord refers to Isaiah 53:10, where the Servant of God is said by His death to make satisfaction. According to Matthew 20:28, Jesus gives His soul a ransom for many; He presents for the sins of the human race, which could not without satisfaction be forgiven, a satisfaction which the sinners themselves could never have given, and thus effects and provides for the justification of sinners before God. God made Christ sin for us, 2 Corinthians 5:21; He sent Him as a sin-offering, Romans 8:3; He is the propitiation for our sins, Romans 3:25.
We have in this passage the prelude to the conflict of Jesus in Gethsemane. The trouble here, and the trouble there, form a unity: one key unlocks both. But we have elsewhere remarked, with reference to that fact: “The problem to be solved is this, not how this bitter anguish generally, and specifically this anguish as coming just before His death, should lay hold of the Redeemer, but how this anguish should declare itself to be the supreme degree of the fear of death: the Lord prays for the removal of this fear of death; the fear of death extorts from Him the bloody sweat. Nothing of this kind is found recurring in the death of any Christian martyr or confessor. And yet this very circumstance makes the infinite difference between the Redeemer and His servants. The sting of death is sin. The more free man is from sin, the sweeter to him is death, as the way to the Father.
The only solution of this is the vicarious significance of the sufferings and death of Jesus. If our chastisement was upon Him in order that we might have peace, then in Him must be concentrated all the horror of death. He bore the sin of the world, and the wages of that sin was death. And death, therefore, must to Him assume its most frightful form. The physical suffering was nothing in relation to this immeasurable suffering of soul which impended over the Redeemer, and the full greatness and depth of which He clearly perceived. Therefore, in Hebrews 5:7, a fear is described as that which pressed with such awful weight upon our Lord. When God freed Him from that, He saved Him from death. Thus, when the suffering of Christ is apprehended as vicarious, and accordingly as voluntary, all the accompanying circumstances are easily enough understood. Then we can understand the sudden transition in tone and feeling from that of the high-priestly prayer to that of the conflict in Gethsemane. With equal freedom the Redeemer responded here to the one and there to the other side of His destiny. Then also we see how it was that the Redeemer, far from being surprised by the agony or overpowered by its prospect, provided everything with reference to it, and took the most advanced disciples with Him, that they might be witnesses of His infirmity, and also of that which He effected for us.” Thus Augustin remarks with perfect correctness: “Christ’s perturbation tranquillizes us, and His infirmity makes us firm;” and Beza: “The cause of this, the most awful and horrible distress in the mind of Christ, was the sense of the Divine wrath, than which nothing more terrible can be conceived.” If the perturbation had had no actual significance, if it had been merely a variation of weakness, Jesus would not have given it such express and careful utterance.
Τί εἴ?πω is the expression of consideration, and intimates that the matter had two aspects; that what was recommended as desirable on the one hand, was on the other very doubtful: comp. Matthew 21:25-26; 1 Corinthians 11:22. The “What shall I say?” standing first, softens the following “Father, save Me from this hour,” shows that it was only under one aspect that the deliverance was desired, and that not without hesitation, thus paving the way for the following retractation. There is no reason for understanding the “Father, save Me from this hour” interrogatively. Stier very justly opposes this by saying, “To our feeling there is something discordant, at this time of profound spiritual emotion, in a prayer which just questions. Shall I ask this request?” There is nothing inappropriate in the fact, that in the midst of this circumscribing agony, the anguish of His soul expressed itself in an actual supplication. This is the most obvious interpretation; and were it otherwise doubtful, it would be confirmed by Matthew 26:39, where Jesus prays that the cup might pass away from Him. And Hebrews 5:7 is decisive against the interrogatory theory: there we read of strong crying and tears being offered to Him who was able to save Him from death. “But to this end came I unto this hour:” διὰ? τοῦ?το , that My soul might be troubled. The anguish which evoked this supplication of Jesus, “Save Me from this hour,” was the very reason why this hour, the time of anguish, came upon Him. It was the basis of the work of redemption. Christ must endure horror, that we might be delivered from horror. That which constituted the design for which the hour was appointed, could not be the occasion for the prayer that it should come to an end. The διὰ? τοῦ?το is important, because it exhibits the inmost connection between the agony of Christ and His atoning work. Those who explain the trembling after the manner of Lücke,—“as a sacred law of nature: death has a horror for man, especially death as coming upon young and fresh life,”—have to make their very beginning with the διὰ? τοῦ?το .
The petition, “Father, glorify Thy name,” is fully apprehended when we regard it as the counterpart of the request, “Save Me from this hour,” as well as in connection with “Therefore came I unto this hour.” Glorify Thy name by causing that My soul-anguish and My death be not in vain, but that it serve to My own glorification, the salvation of the world, and the extension of Thy kingdom. Let Me suffer what I must suffer—let Me tremble and agonize, so that only this fruit may finally come from My sufferings. Since this request was a definite and absolute one, it has for its foundation the assurance that the Lord would in this manner glorify His name. The deepest depth of this suffering is for Christ the way to glorification.
Ver. 28. “Father, glorify Thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
God glorified His name by the works which Christ accomplished by His power, the resurrection of Lazarus being the last; and He would further glorify His name by prospering the suffering and death of Christ to the end of His glorification, and the spread of the kingdom of God over the whole earth. According to ver. 29, the people heard thunder; and the question rises, whether the voice from heaven here was identical with the thunder, or whether there was some articulate voice distinct from the thunder. We decide in favour of the former view. There is no reason for assuming any voice shaped into words. Among the concomitants of the sound, immediately after “Glorify Thy name,” the thunder did expressly say what John gives as its meaning, in connection with which it is not accidental, that after οὐ?ρανοῦ? the λέγουσα is wanting. 1 Samuel 12 presents the nearest analogy. There we have not a voice of the Lord separated from the thunder, but the thunder itself, following at an unusual time; and in immediate connection with the words of Samuel is the voice of the Lord. In ver. 18 of that chapter we read, “So Samuel called unto the Lord, and the Lord gave thunder (voices) and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel,” To describe thunder as the voice of the Lord, was only following the example of the Old Testament. Seven times it is so termed in one Psalm, Psalms 29. In Job 37:4 we read, “He thundereth with the voice;” and in Psalms 18:13, “The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave His voice:” comp. also 1 Samuel 12:17; Exodus 9:23. If John had intended that we should distinguish clearly between the thunder and the voice, he would have recorded both in separate terms. But there is no trace of any such distinction. On the contrary, John points expressly to the fact, that the thunder and the voice were one and identical. He records that the multitude heard the voice, and said that it thundered. Thus the people recognised the voice itself as thunder. There is not the slightest hint that the people heard less than what took place; that on account of the dulness of their ears they received the impression only of a rumbling noise, but did not apprehend the articulate voice. The multitude heard no articulate voice at all. Accordingly our Lord speaks, with allusion to what they had heard, of a voice, and exhorts them to lay that voice to heart. Thus the thunder spoke, even to those who heard nothing besides the thunder. John himself intimates that only thunder was there, when he uses the ἐ?δόξασα and δοξάσω , words used with allusion to thunder, and thunder as repeated, קולות . The name, son of thunder, given by Jesus to John, Mark 3:17, assumes and was based upon a sense of the symbolical language of nature. It is natural that the son of thunder should assign its true significance to the thunder, and that he should regard it less prosaically than, for instance, Stier, who remarks, “Mere thunder as the voice of the Father over His Son, were something altogether unworthy: with him who does not feel that, we have no disposition to argue.” Certainly we do find in Scripture heavenly voices without thunder: comp. 1 Samuel 3; Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5; Acts 9:4; Acts 22:7. But we cannot find there any satisfactory instance of a connection between thunder and the articulated voice of God. In Exodus 19:19, we read that Moses spoke, and God answered with His voice; but according to ver. 16, that voice was thunder; for the voices and the lightnings are there placed in juxtaposition. The idea of an articulate voice of God combined with the thunder at the giving of the law (praemissa tonitrua, quae attentionem quasi excitabant et deinceps articulatae voces), rests simply upon the expositor’s caprice. The articulate voice there belongs to Moses alone, who comes forward as the interpreter of God, and is legitimated as such by the thunder. What Moses, according to Exodus 19:25, uttered, could only have been the same ten commandments which, in ch. John 20:1, are referred back to God, who sanctioned Moses, as His speaker and representative, by the “voices” of thunder. In Exodus 20:11), the people ask that Moses might speak to them alone, and not, as aforetime, with the accompaniment of the terrifying thunder-speech of God. True that in Deuteronomy 5:4 we read, “The Lord talked to you face to face in the mount, out of the midst of the fire.” But how that is to be understood, that the Lord spoke only by the “voices” of thunder, while the words spoken were those of Moses, is plainly declared in ver. 5: “I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to show you the word of the Lord, saying.” That Moses with reference to the ten commandments acted the part of an interpreter, is shown by the “saying,” which is immediately followed by these ten commandments. In Revelation 10:4, the voices of thunder are introduced with specific meanings. But here also we may say there is a specific meaning: it is marked by the circumstances under which the thunder is introduced. If in that passage of the Apocalypse the thunder itself seems to speak, that belongs only to the vision. In all other Apocalyptic passages the thunder itself is the voice of God: ch. John 4:5, John 8:5, John 11:19, John 16:18. Throughout the whole of Scripture there does not occur a single instance in which articulate speech is introduced, concealed beneath the thunder.
Thunder is in its nature, and the impression it produces upon every human heart, not merely in general a revelation of the glory of God, but a revelation of a threatening and terrifying character. Dread is the sentiment which always responds to it. This was the character it bore at the giving of the law. It proclaimed to the people that their God was a jealous God, who would inexorably visit their sins upon them. It presented to them the alternative between obedience and judgment; and it pointed to the great truth that whosoever should break the law must die. So also in Psalms 18, 29. According to Psalms 29:7, the voice of the Lord divides with flames of fire; the thunder appears to be the symbolical threatening to the world, and therefore at the same time a symbolical promise to the Church of God oppressed by the world. In the Apocalypse, which it is obviously natural to compare with the Gospel of John, the thunder always has a polemical character; it has always a reference to terrible judgments, whether these are only threatened as to come, or actually accomplished: comp. ch. John 4:5, John 8:5, John 10:3, John 11:19, John 16:18. That here also the “voice” has not only an imposing, but also a threatening character; that it aims at the glorification of God’s name by the subversion of the enemies of God and His Christ, is shown by ver. 31, where the thunder is introduced as a premonition of judgment upon this world and its prince.
Vers. 29 and 30 form an interlude. But Jesus immediately restores the connection. While in vers. 31 and 32 He more fully develops the meaning of the thunder. He comes to the thought which forms the direct answer to Philip and Andrew, the indirect answer to the Greeks: that the time was at hand when there should be closer relations with the Gentiles. That time, however, not being actually come, the wishes of the Greeks could not be granted. Had not the intervening words of the people been spoken, Jesus would at once have begun with ver. 31. Thus the close of the answer to the Gentiles is formally and primarily a part of the answer to the people.
Ver. 29. “The people therefore that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said. An angel spake to him.”
The people regarded at first only the material phenomenon. But what this did not deny—under the circumstances of the occasion, the force of which, as at the raising of Lazarus, must have excited and carried away the minds of all, what it could not have denied—the deep significance of the material phenomenon, some individuals expressly declared in words, thus interpreting the general feeling of all. (Doubtless the saying “it thunders” was spoken not without agitation; and nothing would be more perverse than to interpret them as speaking of common thunder. In the “angel” the Divine energy and presence is embodied to them: comp. on ch. John 5:4. They think that God gave Christ His testimony by the thunder, and thus assured Him of the answer to His prayer.
Ver. 30. “Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of Me, but for your sakes.”
The answer of our Lord has regard to the αὐ?τῷ? , spake to Him. He points them to the fact that He, in the internal relation in which He stood to the Father, needed no such external token; and that they should think rather of themselves. Thunder is a solemn sign of the time: woe to him who does not understand and lay to heart this sign. Its voice announces a judgment: he who does not receive its warning will, in that judgment, fall. That which is in ver. 31 only hinted, finds its more full explanation, so far as it referred to the Jews, in vers. 35, 36, 44-50.
Ver. 31. “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”
We have in ver. 31 the exposition of the voice’s meaning. It announces that there is to be a judgment held upon this world. This judgment proceeds primarily on the prince of this world; but that it does not end there—that it at the same time proceeds upon those who are one with him in spirit and act—those who are of their father the devil, John 8:44—is plain from the fact that, before the prince of the world, the world itself is mentioned as the object of judgment (Stier is manifestly wrong: “The ungodly world is itself in a certain sense judged in its prince, when it is saved”); more especially from ver. 30, which warns the Jews against falling in the judgment; and vers. 35-44 seq. Ver. 32 shows that the judgment has its root in the death of Christ. There Christ represents Himself as, in consequence of His death, drawing all men to Him; but this positive energy must have the negative one of judgment as its inseparable concomitant. Christ cannot draw to Himself without at once condemning the prince to whom they had previously belonged, and who will not let them go unless he is judged and stripped of his power, and at the same time themselves whom He receives, so far as their indwelling sin is concerned, the extirpation of which in judgment is the condition of their being drawn to Christ, to whom they could never come in the spotted garment of the flesh. Judgment and salvation go hand in hand.
The death of Christ has a condemning significance in two ways. First, as to those who receive it in faith: a condemning sword pierces their soul; the pain of penitence is the prerequisite of faith; the condemnation of their sin, which was accomplished upon the cross, approves its saving power in them only When they have gone through this severe discipline. And then the death of Christ has its judicial significance for those who reject it in unbelief. The destruction of Jerusalem had its root in the death of Christ: the blood of the Redeemer was upon them and their children. He who counts the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, Hebrews 10:29, is doomed to eternal condemnation.
Psalms 97 exhibited the manifestation of Christ under the judicial point of view. “The appearance of Christ had a judicial significance also for those among the Gentiles who obeyed the Gospel: the nothingness of their past existence was thereby made manifest; and profound shame took the place of the pride with which they had despised Zion. Among those who would not acknowledge this ‘The Lord reigneth,’ that side of the judgment which is here prominent came into force.”—“The prince of this world:” thus Satan is named only in the last discourses of Jesus in John; first here, and then in John 14:30, John 16:11. This dignity is attributed to him only where its subversion is immediately in prospect. As regards the fact, Matthew 4:8-9 corresponds, where the devil shows Christ all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and says to Him, “All these things I will give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” What he promises to give, he must himself possess. Then, again, the description of the devil in 2 Corinthians 4:4, as “the god of this world,” is in strict keeping; but especially Ephesians 2:2, where Satan is described as the prince who has power over the air. The air, corresponding to the τοῦ? κόσμου τούτου of the preceding verse, the atmosphere of the earth, denotes the influences of Satan everywhere surrounding man, who breathes an air, as it were, infected by Satan.
The imagination and desire of the human heart is evil from youth up: there lies the foundation of Satan’s power. That power does not rest upon any right of Satan which even God is bound to respect: the notion of such a right is opposed to all Scripture. But the being subjected to his power is only the deserved punishment and necessary consequence of sin; so that with the cause the effect also must cease. Man is too weak and insignificant to assume anything like an independent middle position between God and Satan. He must walk either with God or Satan. Since the fall, he has been reduced to bondage under the devil. But through the manifestation of Christ, and especially through His atoning death, the power of sin has been broken. Since that event it has been a great, anachronism when a people or an individual remains subject to the broken power of Satan. From the time that sin was atoned for on the tree, punishment has ceased for all who enter into the new order of things; new powers of life have been provided and given to them. And thus Satan has now nothing in them.—“Shall be cast out:” not from dominion, but from the world; for that is the word which immediately precedes, and we are led to that also by the corresponding ἐ?κ τῆ?ς γῆ?ς , from the earth, in ver. 32. The removal of Christ from the earth, which thus seems to exclude Him from dominion over it, wall have for its consequence the removal of Satan from the earth. The ἐ?κβληθήσεται ἔ?ξω , the exclusion of Satan from the world, is virtually contained in and implied by the death of Christ on the cross. The realization of it goes on from stage to stage, until, in the casting of Satan into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:10 marks its consummation. A very important crisis in that realization is the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:2, the destruction of the Gentile power which was the firmest bulwark of Satan on the earth. But that realization actually began with the death of Christ. From that time it was demonstrated that powers were energetic against Satan which the human race had never before known.
Here Satan is cast out of the world; in Revelation 12:7-9 he is cast out of heaven, as the result of the victory which Christ had won over him through blood and death. The difference is only a formal one. For that Satan cannot maintain himself in heaven, means in the Apocalypse simply that his power is broken through the blood of Christ, ver. 11. Everything mighty is translated into heaven.
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth.”
According to the current interpretation, there lies in these words a double meaning: they are made to refer at once to the crucifixion and to the exaltation; and the crucifixion itself is regarded as the beginning of the glorification. Bengel: “In the cross itself there was already something tending to glory.” But we must reject this double meaning, and adhere to the simple reference to the death of Christ. This is demanded by the explanation of the Apostle in ver. 33; it is suggested also by the interpretation of the Jews in ver. 34: they find in the ὑ?ψωθῶ? ἐ?κ τῆ?ς γῆ?ς the contrary of their expectation concerning the Christ, that He would μένειν εἰ?ς τὸ?ν αἰ?ῶ?να , abide for ever; and Christ confirms that interpretation, by warning them to avail themselves of the light which would only a short time remain among them. The relation to ver. 31 also demands such an exposition: by the same event which seemed to assure to the prince of this world his authority over it, he would in reality be cast out; and by the same event which seemed to displace Christ altogether from the earth. He would be exalted into supreme dominion over it, and enabled to draw all men unto Himself. To combine and include reference to the glorification, is to oppose the symbolism of the cross. The high place is to him who is hanged not a demonstration of honour; it points to the fact that he is no longer worthy to be found on earth, that earth rejects him, and that he is devoted to the vengeance of God: comp. Deuteronomy 21:23, “He that is hanged is accursed of God;” and in our Lord’s discourses the ὑ?ψοῦ?ν always refers to the crucifixion, never to the ascension; comp. on ch. John 3:14, John 8:28. There is no trace throughout the New Testament of any hint that makes the cross a symbol or type of Christ’s exaltation. The Old Testament passage, Isaiah 53:8, refers to a violent death, “He was cut off out of the land of the living:” comp. Acts 8:33. In ver. 24, dying simply, and as such, corresponds with the being lifted up from the earth.
“I will draw all men unto Me:” the Gentiles also, whom hitherto the prince of this world had held so entirely in his own power: comp. ch. John 10:16. With the πάντας ἑ?λκύσω πρὸ?ς ἐ?μαυτόν (Lampe: He thus teaches, that those whom Jesus draws are at the same time drawn away from the head and body of which they had been previously part and members), the answer to Philip and Andrew, and indirectly to the Greeks, is completed: Ye shall come to Jesus, but the time is not yet quite come. The corn of wheat must first fall into the earth. The power of the prince of this world, who has hitherto been, so to speak, your legitimate sovereign, must first be broken by My death. Then will the Gentiles experience My attracting power.
The drawing power exists for all: unbelief is the only thing which can exclude from this glorious benefit, ch. John 3:15-16, and here, ver. 36. Anton: “Not, indeed, as if man could not oppose, for the will of man is free; but yet it is so mighty, that where a man will withstand it, he must do violence to himself in order to get the victory.” He also remarks, in reference to the drawing of Christ: “That which, in ver. 24, is the grain of seed bringing forth fruit—but on the condition of its first dying—becomes here the drawing. For that drawing did not take place until after the death; but after Christ’s death it proceeded with power: men’s minds and hearts were mightily moved. When the world thought that they had now extinguished His name, the attraction of that name first began: and we must not regard this as if that attraction was merely to be the result; but that it was the influence of His death, as of a causae meritoriae, to which the Lord refers and declares: I will thus draw men to Me; I will now stretch out My hands unto them.” The drawing of Christ does not consist merely in the power of attraction which His death itself exercises: as Anton remarks, “Then will My death powerfully draw men’s minds, and lay on their hearts the tenderest obligation.” The main point is rather the drawing of the Holy Spirit, who was to be obtained by the atoning death of our Lord, and who reveals to the heart the meaning of that death: comp. ch. John 7:39. Ch. John 6:44 alludes to an internal attractive power; and in ch. John 16:8 Christ says that He would exercise, through the Holy Ghost, the power here described.
Ver. 33. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.”—Σημαίνειν is simply to point out, and does not signify merely “hint.” So in Acts 11:28; Acts 25:27; Revelation 1:1, and always in the Sept. and the Apocrypha.
Ver. 34. “The people answered Him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou. The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?”
The Lord says, in Matthew 8:11-12: “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This word of Christ was, in the closing scene of His public life among the Jews, realized in a visible manner. Greeks come and desire to see Jesus. Jesus declares to them, as the representatives of the Gentile world, that the time would soon come in which He would draw the Gentiles to Himself. The Jews who were present derive from the reply which He made to the Gentiles a reason for their opposition. Jesus warningly points them to the fact, that there was a little space yet left to them; that soon the light would be removed, and that then darkness would come upon them in its might.
The opposition of the Jews sprang from a malignant will. That the abiding for ever formed no real contrast to the being lifted up from the earth, the words of Christ themselves might have shown them, in which the being lifted up from the earth appears as the mere point of transition, as the foundation of His glorification, of the casting out of the prince of this world, and of the extension of His dominion over all the earth. The same they might have learned from the Old Testament. In Isaiah 53 the vicarious propitiation and death of the Messiah appears as the necessary basis of His abiding for ever: “When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed. He shall prolong His days.” And in Daniel himself, to whom they appealed, the violent death of the Messiah is foreannounced, ch. John 9:26. Through suffering to glory is the law which approved itself in the lives of all the great men of the Old Testament, the types of Christ, and pre-eminently of David. That it was with them a mere subterfuge, or a prejudice resting upon a sinful disposition, and not from any scruple which honest minds felt at the thing itself, is plain from the fact, that Christ, in His answer to their objection, does not in any way enter into it, but only exhorts them to know the time of their visitation. (Anton: “After the manner of the so-called learned, they wrested a single little word against the evidence of the whole matter.” Quesnel: “The law announces the humiliation and death of the Messiah, as well as His glory, and the duration of His kingdom; but self-love holds fast that which flatters its vanity and effeminacy, passing by what does not accord with its notions and fleshly inclinations.”)
They said, We have heard out of the law. The passage they had in view is in Daniel. That they quoted this by the name of the law, demonstrates that this book, as a portion of the canon, had for them a binding force, and that they durst not oppose this surer authority in deference to the doubtful authority of Christ, who opposed it by His words: comp. on νόμος , ch. John 10:34. The full meaning of their reference to the law, here emphasized, we see in ch. John 9:29: “We know that God spake to Moses (Daniel); but as to this man, we know not whence he is.” Our passage shows that, among the Jews of the time of Christ, the book of Daniel had the fullest canonical authority, which indeed Josephus confirms in many places. “We have heard:” what the Scripture said was then known rather by hearing than by reading.
The idea of Christ’s abiding for ever occurs in many passages of the Old Testament. In Isaiah 9:5 He is termed the “everlasting Father” (Luther: “who for ever nourishes His kingdom and Church “); in ver. 7 it is said, with reference to the Messiah, “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end—from henceforth for ever.” According to Psalms 110, the Messiah is a high priest for ever. According to Daniel 2:24, the God of heaven would establish a kingdom which should never be abolished. And in Daniel 7:13-14, it is said of Him who cometh in the clouds like the Son of man, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away.” Compare, in relation to the eternity of His government, Psalms 72:5; Psalms 72:7; Psalms 72:17; Psalms 89:37-38. That the Jews singled out from these passages that of Daniel, is evident from the fact that there only the Messiah is described as the Son of man. They said, instead of Christ’s “I must be lifted up,” the Son of man must be lifted up, in order to make more emphatic the contrast between what Christ had uttered concerning Himself, and that which is said concerning the Son of man in Daniel. And they held themselves all the more justified in making the substitution here, because Christ had so often, and so lately as the introduction to the last discourse, in ver. 23, described Himself as the Son of man, with allusion to that passage of Daniel. But the appeal to this alone cannot explain the substitution. This is evident, especially from “Who is this Son of man?” which points to the difference between the suffering; Son of man whom Christ would enforce upon them, and that eternally glorious Son of man referred to in Daniel, whom alone they would receive, and know nothing of any other.— Δεῖ? ὑ?ψωθῆ?ναι , must be lifted up. Jesus, in fact, had said so much, when He declared the lifting up from the earth to be the necessary condition of His dominion over it.
Ver. 35. “Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you: walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.”
Anton: “Christ says that there was no time now for sophistry and circumlocution with such phrases. It was a solemn matter. O how differently should they demean themselves in the residue of their little time, and not while it away with affected contradiction! O how should they seek at once for refuge to the light, to shield themselves against the coming darkness!” On light and darkness, equivalent to salvation and ruin, see ch. John 8:12. The light proceeds from Christ; but the contrasted darkness shows that the light in itself does not denote the person of the Redeemer. The light did not cease to be among them precisely at the crisis of Christ’s death. (Bengel: lux ipsa manet, sed non semper est in vobis.) This is evident from the great movement at the day of Pentecost. The limit of grace, which, according to the Lord’s saying, yet remained to them, did not consist merely in the two days which intervened between these words and the Saviour’s death. First must the atoning death of Jesus and His resurrection unfold their power, and that which is spoken of in ver. 32 become true of the Jews also. Nevertheless, the period of light to the Jews was drawing swiftly to its close; and their giving up the Lord to death was the beginning of that end. In that act they invoked His blood on themselves and on their children. The time during which the light was with the Jews here corresponds to the time of their visitation in Luke 19:44.
The walking stands opposed to an idle and indifferent rest. It denotes activity; and in what way activity should approve itself under existing circumstances, is shown by the “believe in the light” of John 12:36.
Instead of ἕ?ως , whilst (compare the ἕ?ως ἡ?μέρα ἐ?στί , John 9:4), many important witnesses have here and in ver. 36 ὡ?ς . But there is no other example of such a use of ὡ?ς , or anything like it.
St Luke, Luke 19:43, exhibits more fully the meaning of the darkness here: “For the day shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side.” Yet that is only the external side of the darkness. With the external exposure to ruin, the internal want of salvation goes hand in hand. The fundamental place in the Old Testament is Jeremiah 13:16. The prophet says there, in view of the Chaldean catastrophe: “Give glory to the Lord your God, before He cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, He turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness”—“and (that ye may know what this darkness means) he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth,” into what an abyss of misery he may fall: comp. ch. John 11:10; Proverbs 4:19, “The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.”
Ver. 36. “While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide Himself from them.”
So long as ye have salvation, believe in the salvation, and in its representatives and instruments. Sons, in the sense of adherents, is a phrase common to Christ throughout the Evangelists: Matthew 8:12; Matthew 12:27; Matthew 13:38; Mark 2:19. In Luke 16:8 we read of the children of light, υἱ?οὶ? φωτὸ?ς , by the side of the children of this world.
In ch. John 8:59 it is said, “Then Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the Temple.” But the case there is essentially different from the present. There Jesus concealed Himself because the Jews wanted to stone Him. He retired from the presence of a transitory danger, and thus His retreat was only a transitory one. But here there was no danger impending; and the concealing Himself was a definitive one. He retired into secret, that the catastrophe might not take place before the time. He was to suffer and die, and He would suffer and die, as the paschal lamb. It is to be assumed that Jesus from this time onwards retreated altogether from public life. This helps to define the chronological relations of vers. 20-36. We have already seen that the entry into Jerusalem belonged to the Sunday. On the following day, that is, Monday, Jesus cursed the fig-tree on the way from Bethany to the city, Mark 11:12. When, in the early morning of the next day, Tuesday, He went again to the city, the disciples saw that the fig-tree had withered away, Mark 11:20. On this day Jesus entered the Temple for the last time; and that which is here recorded must have happened on the same day: for the detail, see Wieseler. St John gives here no chronological specification, because the time might be gathered with sufficient certainty from his predecessors. There were now only two days to the Passover. These He spent in the circle of His disciples. The Old Testament original of “He went away and hid Himself” is Deuteronomy 32:20: “And He said, I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a froward generation, children in whom there is no faith.”
Vers. 37, 38. “But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him: that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?
The first words of John 12:37 allude to Psalms 78:11-12: “And forgat His works and His wonders that He had showed them. Marvellous things did He in the sight of their fathers in the land of Egypt, and in the field of Zoan.” This allusion is significant: it has an apologetic importance. It had been the hereditary character of the people to be unbelieving, in spite of all signs and wonders. Reference had been made to this same passage in ch. John 10:32. There the leading word which identifies the allusion is ἔ?δειξα ; here it is ἔ?μπροσθεν αὐ?τῶ?ν . It was only the old thing made new when the Jews were unbelieving. As their unbelief had no force as an argument against the divinity of Jehovah, no more had it any force against the Divine mission of Christ, in whom the Jehovah of the Old Testament was incarnate. As τοσαῦ?τα can only mean so many, and not so great (comp. John 6:9, John 14:9, John 21:11),—while our Gospel records only seven miracles, four Galilean and three Jewish,—we cannot fail to discern here a tacit acknowledgment of the existence of other Gospels. The Evangelist points to the multiplicity of the miracles in ch. John 20:30-31, John 21:25 also. The climax of them all was the raising of Lazarus. That “they believed not,” is not exhibited under the aspect of guilt, but of doom or Divine reprobation, and is shown by “that it might be fulfilled,” according to which their unbelief must serve for the fulfilment of the prophetic word, and therefore stand under the Divine direction. We must not fritter away the ἵ?να as Ebrard does: “The words do not refer to any design on the part of God; but what the Jews brought on themselves as the result of their unbelief, is stated in such a way as if they had designed to fulfil God’s word.” We ought rather to say, that because the Jews could not have had any design to establish the truth of God’s prediction by their unbelief, therefore the οὐ?κ ἐ?πίστευον must be referred to a Divine decree. Ver. 39 also establishes the same, where “they believed not” is reproduced as “they could not believe.”
The fact that their unbelief is exhibited in the light of a Divine penalty, does not exclude their guilt, but rather presupposes that guilt. God has so constituted human nature, that man, if he does not withstand beginnings, has himself no longer under his own control: comp. on ch. John 8:43. But that which is a decree resting upon guilt, the consequence of the righteous judgment of God, could not, and ought not to be wrested to the disparagement of Christ. Rather it should have given the Jews occasion to smite upon their breasts, and cry, God be merciful to me, a sinner; harden not further my heart, that I cease to fear Thee; give me grace unto repentance.
The clause added, τοῦ? προφήτου , points to the reason why the word of Isaiah must necessarily come to fulfilment. Ὅ?ν εἶ?πεν is solemn enlargement. Κύριε , which also the Septuagint adds, serves to mark it off from ch. Isaiah 52:13-15. There the Lord speaks. With ch. Isaiah 53:1 the prophet begins. The Evangelist did not mechanically adopt the κύριε from the Sept.; he never follows that version in arbitrary additions and omissions. The prophet begins the further exposition of that which had been said in brief by the servant of the Lord in ch. Isaiah 52:13-15; setting out with the complaint that so many did not believe his report concerning the servant of God, so many did not behold the glory of God manifest in Him. The words, according to their connection, specially refer to the Jews: the unbelief of the Jews, which went so far that the believers were only a vanishing minority, is mourned over in them. Joy over the many Gentiles who, according to ch. Isaiah 52:13-15, receive and apprehend with delight the tidings concerning the servant of God, goes side by side with grief over the many of Israel who believe not the tidings. And in that passage of Isaiah himself, unbelief is exhibited under the aspect of doom. They believe not, because the arm of the Lord, the unfolding of His Divine power in Christ, is not revealed to them, because God withdraws from them the knowledge of His power made manifest in Christ. Prophecy has not for its object generally the free actions of men, but the Divine decrees; and that there is such a decree in the quoted word of Isaiah, is shown by the expression in 1 Peter 2:8: the disobedient are appointed not to believe. We have shown in the Christology, that שמעה in the original, ἀ?κοή here, is equivalent to that which we hear—that which has been made known unto us, the prophets, represented by Isaiah. Ch. Isaiah 21:10 gives a comment on the words, “That which I have heard of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you.” And this view is supported by the correspondence of the two members. As the knowledge comes to the prophet, so it comes to the hearer also, only through supernatural revelation. Anton: “Lord, who believeth our report? We do not speak our own to the people, saith the prophet, but as we have ourselves heard, and as we have through hearing found its truth in ourselves. We do not set dreams before them, or inventions of our own. No, it is ἀ?κοή ἡ?μῶ?ν
Seemingly independent, the Jews were in fact only a plaything in the hands of God. Under this point of view, their unbelief was not an argument against Jesus, but a confirmation of His Divine mission, to the concomitant circumstances of which it belonged, according to the prophecy of the Old Testament.
Chap. John 12:37-50
We have here the concluding word of the first of the four groups which make up the main portion of the Gospel. It falls into two parts. In the first the Evangelist himself speaks. He makes observations upon a problem which sprang out of the facts recorded in the first portion: How could the unbelief of the Jews be accounted for? Must it not operate against the Divine mission of Jesus? In order to obviate this arising scruple, the Apostle first declares that this unbelief, far from witnessing against Christ, had been foreannounced in the prophecy of the Old Testament, and was to be viewed in the light of a Divine punishment upon the perverseness of the people, vers. 37-41. He then shows that this unbelief was only partial: many believed on Jesus, not only from among the people, but from among the rulers, although they did not make open avowal, because of their servile dependence upon men. In the second part of this concluding word, the Apostle introduces Jesus Himself as speaking. He has at the end, in ver. 36, the concluding word which Jesus addressed to Judas before His departure, but broken off in the middle. Here he communicates the second part of it. Jesus represents Himself as the true representative of the Father, and the only Saviour; proclaiming the judgment which must be hereafter the inseparable attendant of unbelief. This is the appropriate winding up, as of the whole relation in which Jesus had stood to the Jews, so also of the evangelical record of that relation. The division of what was originally united, the Evangelist must the rather have determined on, because the fundamental thought of the whole of the last discourse had been fully contained in vers. 35, 36.
Vers. 39, 40. “Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again. He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.”
Therefore, on account of the Divine decree announced by Isaiah in ch. 53. The ὅ?τι then introduces a second reason, or an elucidation of the former one, from the mouth of the same Isaiah: comp. ch. John 5:16; John 5:18; Matthew 24:44. The forced supposition, that διὰ? τοῦ?το refers not to what precedes, but to what follows (when, according to the correct remark of De Wette, we might have expected a δέ or καί of transition), sprang from a false apprehension of vers. 37, 38, which regards that passage as intimating only the fact of the Jews’ unbelief. Rightly says Anton: “For again has Isaiah ex eodem fundamento spoken.”
The cited passage of Isaiah, ch. Isaiah 6:10, runs according to the original: “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” The quotation is not very strictly literal, but accords in reality nearly enough with the original. The address is there directed to the prophets; but he seems there to be only an instrument of the Divine decree, and that which is imposed upon him or the collective servants of God whom he represents, must be referred back to God. It lay in the scope of the Evangelist to make prominent this Divine causality; for it was his purpose to exhibit the unbelief of the Jews under the aspect of a Divine decree and judicial infliction. Properly speaking, the first person ought to have been used instead of the imperative, “I have blinded.” But then it would have been too obviously natural to take the prophet as the subject, the rather that in the original of Isaiah he is the person to whom the words are addressed. Therefore John used first the third person; but that he selected it only for the reason assigned is shown by the fact that he uses the first person in the conclusion, ἰ?άσωμαι , or, according to another reading, ἰ?άσομαι . This is not an instance of “negligence;” but it shows, on the contrary, how precisely, down to the least minutiae, everything is ordered in John’s Gospel. Guilt was upon the Jews. But that they might not imagine that they defeated Christ’s plans by their unbelief, and overturned the evidence of His mission, prominence is given to the Divine causation, in connection with their perverse determination. What they would not, they should not, might not, and could not. Situated as they were, everything that furthered the faith of the well-disposed only strengthened them in their unbelief. That is the Divine penalty, the doom which ruled over them, and hurried them to their destruction.
Ver. 41. “These things said Esaias, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him.”—Αὐ?τοῦ? refers back to ver. 37. The distinction from the Lord, ver. 38, who is still the subject in ver. 40, is all the less necessary because John, as he himself says in this verse, beheld Christ in the Jehovah of the Old Testament.
Isaiah saw “the Lord” sitting on His throne. He says in ver. 5, “Mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” But, according to the tenor of the Old Testament, all visible manifestation, all revelation of the Lord, is made through His Angel, the brightness of His glory; and this was seen manifest in Christ in the flesh.—“And spake of Him:” thus that also refers to Christ, which in ver. 40 was quoted from Isaiah as the Lord’s own act. It was He, therefore, who blinded the eyes of the Jews, etc. The Jews, while they vainly imagined that by their unbelief they discredited His cause, and stamped Him as a “deceiver,” were falling under His condemnation. The refutation of the Jews’ delusion, that Christ must be a false Messiah because they held Him to be such, becomes here a cutting irony.
We must be on our guard against supposing that the words here have no express reference to the case in hand, and bear only a cursory relation to the state of the Jews. The fundamental idea of the whole passage is the penalty of obduration, which the Lord threatened upon His apostate people; and the Lord, who held that doom over them, was no other than Christ Himself. That which He Himself brought to pass, could not be brought into evidence against His claims.
Vers. 42, 43. “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
The unbelief of the Jews, it has been hitherto unfolded, could not be urged as an argument against Christ’s Messiahship. But certainly it pertained to the confirmation of the Divine mission of Christ, that faith in some should be found mingled with unbelief in others. For the people of the covenant could never sink so low as to rise up as one man against the most glorious manifestation of their God. With this consideration in his mind, the Evangelist has all along diligently set over against the outbreaks of unbelief in the majority, the expressions of faith in the few. And here he points to the fact, that this necessary condition of the Divine mission of Christ was present. Not only among the people (Augustin: Eorum autem qui crediderunt alii usque adeo confitebantur ut palmarum ramis acceptis venienti occurrerent, etc.), also among the rulers,—who had specially hard difficulties to overcome, in whom the perverse national tendency was concentrated, and who from their position were most likely to be affected by prejudices,—many believed on Christ; and although through the fear of men they were restrained from making open confession, yet their faith bore witness to the impressive majesty of the appearance of Christ, and the mighty drawing of the Father to the Son: comp. ch. John 6:44. By ἐ?πίστευσαν , they believed, John’s phraseology allows us to understand only a true faith. That was the only faith which would enter suitably into the design of the Evangelist here. That their faith, indeed, had not attained its full energy, was shown by their shrinking from confession. But this was the condition of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea for a long time, whose faith, however, afterwards broke through all impediments: comp. on ch. John 3:2.
When Augustin observes, Principes hos habuisse ingressum fidei, quo si profecissent, amorem quoque humanae gloriae superassent,—what he says is true, though onesided. Even weak faith must make confession. The strong emphasis laid in Matthew 10:32-33 upon the necessity of confession, shows that we are wrong in supposing that confession comes with the gradual strengthening of faith. The faith that makes no avowal, cannot attain its full power. And he who forgets the obligation to confess, is in danger of extinguishing his faith, in order to fly from the admonitions of his conscience.—“Lest they should be put out of the synagogue:” comp. on ch. John 9:22. The praise of men is, according to ch. John 5:44 (comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:6), the honour which springs from and is bestowed by man: the praise of God is the honour which comes from God. How must the image of God have become dim in such a man! God is, in His Old Testament name Jehovah, Existence, the personal necessary Being, out of whom all is nothingness and death, the only One about whom man need care, and for whose favour man should struggle. Men, whose name is weakness, cannot assure us of anything, cannot really hurt or really profit any.
Vers. 44, 45. “Jesus cried, and said. He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me, but on Him that sent Me. And he that seeth Me, seeth Him that sent Me.”
There can be no doubt that John here communicates a discourse actually delivered by Jesus. There is absolutely no proof that He puts words into our Lord’s mouth (see on ch. John 3:16); this was forbidden by the deep reverence which he entertained for his Lord. Here it is also opposed emphatically by the ἔ?κραξε , which refers to the Lord’s manner of uttering His discourse, just as in ch. John 7:28; John 7:37. When this hypothesis is supported by argument drawn from the unoriginal and almost recapitulatory character of the discourse, we have only to remark, that while, on the one hand, this discourse is not formally a composition from the earlier recorded words of Christ in John, from which it has not verbally borrowed a single expression (ver. 48 even touches upon Luke 10:16; and there is no Johannaean parallel for the καὶ? μὴ? φυλάξῃ? in ver. 47), on the other hand, to have given anything materially new would have been scarcely appropriate in a final discourse of our Lord. Vers. 35, 36 bear evidently the same character of material dependence on earlier words combined with formal independence.
It has been further argued, that there is wanting here the organic connection which is observable elsewhere in the Lord’s discourses as given by John; but to us it seems that it must be the fault of the expositor if the clear process of thought is not here traced. The analysis is as follows: I am the truly Sent, ver. 44; and the visible image of the Father, ver. 45; and because I am this, I am the Saviour of the world, ver. 46; and on this account unbelief—although the proper design of My mission is not judgment, ver. 47—must, in the nature of things, bring on judgment: the rejected word of God, which offers the most glorious of all benefits, eternal life, must recoil in judgment upon the heads of those who scorn it in My lips. “For I have not spoken of Myself; even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak.” In these words, in which the end of Christ’s discourse returns to the beginning (οὖ?ν ), the Jews received a measure by which they might mete their future—their future in this world, and their future in the world to come. A profound woe lies concealed behind them.
The book of Judges, ch. John 2:1-5, presents us something strictly analogous. There a word of the angel of the Lord to the collected Israelites, without any specification of the historical relations, and of the organ through which the angel spake, is inwoven into the introduction, in which the author of the book, with his own hand, exhibits the points of view under which the time of the Judges is to be regarded.
When did Jesus speak these words? As John gives no note of the time, we must naturally think of the nearest point of connection; and with this agrees the entire character of the discourse, which J. Gerhard thus describes: “Christ would, in this grave and serious attestation, publicly take farewell of the ungrateful and unbelieving Jews, and throw the whole blame of their judgment upon themselves alone.” Thus we have here the continuation of the former part of ver. 36; and the words, “These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide Himself from them,” would have stood after “Whatsoever I speak therefore,” etc., in ver. 50, if the Evangelist had not thought it appropriate to close his Epilogue by a portion of the concluding words of Christ. This view is supported also by the consideration, that vers. 35, 36 are too brief for the solemn crisis of His departure from the people; and then, that the figure of light and darkness which was employed in vers. 35, 36, returns again at once in ver. 46, after Jesus, in vers. 44, 45, had laid the foundation, by a reference to His own dignity and His unity with the Father, for the testimony that in Him light was given to the people, and that with His departure darkness would come upon them.
“He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me, but on Him that sent Me.” The Jews sought to isolate Christ, and to erect a wall of partition between Him and the Father: We believe not thee; we believe only in God; and because we believe in Him, we will know nothing of thee. Entering into this their delusion, Jesus says,—he believeth not on “Me.” Ewald, who makes our Lord intimate “that, when He demanded faith in Himself, He did not thereby demand faith in Himself as a mortal man, but pure faith in God and His word”—changes the meaning into its direct opposite. Jesus denies here, as in Mark 9:37, all distinction between Himself and God.
The clause in ver. 45 is peculiar to this concluding word; and it is explained by what was observed upon ch. John 1:18. To believers and unbelievers the Father was in Christ exhibited; and this was the cause of the downfall of the Jews, that they had seen the Father in Christ, and had blasphemously fought against Him: comp. on θεωρεῖ?ν , ch. John 6:40. Bengel is wrong here: Ea visione, quam fides comitatur.
Ver. 46. “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness.”
Light and darkness signify here, as in vers. 35, 36, salvation and ruin. Jesus came into the world as the personal salvation, that whosoever believeth on Him should not abide in that darkness, which involves all who have either not known Christ, or are without Him: comp. on ch. John 1:4, John 8:12.
Ver. 47. “And if any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.”—Φυλάξῃ? (keep not) is much better authenticated than πιστεύσῃ? (believe not). The expression is borrowed from the language of the law: comp. e.g. Exodus 12:17; Exodus 15:26. By the use of this language Christ places Himself on a level with the Supreme Lawgiver. The keeping His words forms an antithesis to the utter rejection of them. In the ἀ?κούσῃ? we must not include a believing adherence. The Lord has to do in these words only with the decidedly unbelieving. To the μὴ? φυλάσσειν here, corresponds the μὴ? λαμβάνειν in ver. 48. “I judge him not:” in harmony with ch. John 3:17, this simply asserts that the proper vocation and position of Christ is not that of a judge, but that of a Saviour; that the judgment only unfolds itself subordinately and of itself, growing out of the rejection of the Saviour. Judgment has not its root in Christ, or in any joy He feels in pronouncing sentence; it has its root rather in the unbeliever, and in the wicked relation which he assumes towards the truth from God. He is αὐ?τοκατάκριτος , Titus 3:11. But on that very account the judgment is only the more unavoidable; and it is simple folly to suppose it can ever be escaped.
Ver. 48. “He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
The catastrophe of Jerusalem was to the Jews a prelude or type of this last day. Then did the apparently impotent word of Christ come up against them like an armed man. Here, as in ch. John 8:50, there is allusion to Deuteronomy 18:19.
Ver. 49. “For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.”
It is frivolous to make a distinction between the εἰ?πεῖ?ν and the λαλεῖ?ν . The union of the two words only indicates emphatically that all things whatever Christ spake He spake under the commission of the Father.
Ver. 50. “And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak.”
This commandment, the fruit of the doctrine sent from Him, when it is believingly received and embraced in the heart. The practical result is, that Christ has nothing to leave to the people, which, on account of its unbelief. He must abandon, but death and destruction. In rejecting Him they had renounced the Father; and the insulted word of the Father must work its influence upon them, until it should leave them neither root nor branch. For them it was the worm which never dieth.
The first four of the seven divisions of the body of this Gospel relate how Jesus wrought the works of Him that sent Him while it was day: the last three describe His departure. The first of these three, ch. 13-17, records how Jesus loved His own to the end; relates how, in the prospect of His passion. He prepared His disciples for His coming departure, thus furnishing for His Church of all times a rich treasure of consolation. The Old Testament types of this portion are: Deuteronomy, in which the departing Moses set before his people the memory of the way; the sayings of Joshua before his death, ch. 23, 24; and the “last words of David,” in 2 Samuel 23, model of the departure of St Paul from the elders of the Ephesian Church, in Acts 20.
In the early part, the narrative of what passed at the Last Supper, John bears only a supplementary relation to the earlier Evangelists. From ch. 14 onwards he communicates what his predecessors had altogether passed over; they having modestly recognised the limits of their gift and vocation, and not having ventured on the province of that disciple who formerly lay on our Saviour’s breast, and was initiated beyond the rest into His mysteries.
Ch. 13 falls into three parts: the feet-washing, vers. 1-20; the conversation touching the traitor, vers. 21-30; the discourse to the disciples after the traitor’s departure, vers. 31-38.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 12". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent