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Ch. 7-10. contain the record of the conflict between faith and unbelief in the metropolis. At first the narrative indicates a vast amount of critical inquiry, of unsettled opinion, of angry disappointment and a certain readiness to be convinced on the part of one section or another. The secrecy of the Galilean village is contrasted with the broad arena of the temple courts. "The Jews," or leaders of opinion and authority in Judaea and Jerusalem, who were hostile, are seen in contrast with "the Jews who believed on him" (John 8:31). There are multitudes and multitudes (John 10:12, John 10:30, John 10:31), priests and Pharisees (John 10:32), the synagogue, and the blind beggar with his fearful and temporizing parents (John 9:1-41.). There are those who are deeply plotting Christ's destruction, and those who are indignant that any suck plot is being hatched (John 7:20). The discourses treat the deepest questions of ethics and theology, national prejudices and the Divine correction of them. The conversations are fragmentary, broken in thread, and yet closely interwoven, while a life like circumstantiality pervades the entire narrative, which argues strongly in favour of its historicity and authentic character. It is the record of definite acts and genuine questions, veritable rebukes and repartees, which have a permanent value as an insight into the character, mind, and Person of the Lord.
John 7:1-53. consists of three distinct parts:
(1) the conditions of the journey to Jerusalem (John 7:1-13);
(2) the discussions during the feast (John 7:14-36);
(3) the last day of the feast (John 7:37-52). Topically considered, we regard this section as exhibiting ―
3. Christ as the Source of truth.
(1). Treatment of the unbelieving brethren; the hour of his full manifestation not yet come.
John 7:1, John 7:2
And after these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he was not willing to walk in Judaea, £ because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Tabernacles, was at hand. The last clause supplies a valuable chronological datum. This great climacteric feast of ingathering and joyful memories of all the goodness of Jehovah was held on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (Leviticus 23:1-44. Leviticus 23:34-36). Consequently, according to John's own statement, six months had elapsed between the transactions at Bethsaida and Capernaum, and those which he now proceeds to describe. During these six months some of the most thrilling events in the synoptic narrative must have been enacted. The Lord "walked in Galilee." He had discussed the whole question of Pharisaic and ceremonial cleansing and food, and the entire principle of revelation and tradition. He had given express illustration of his own teaching by venturing even into heathen cities, and there healing the Syro-Phoenician's child. He had journeyed towards the north of Palestine, into the Greek cities of Decapolis (Mark 7:31), and had made a great demonstration of his healing powers on the mountain heights above the Sea of Galilee. There too (Mark 7:1-9) he had once more fed multitudes by his word, on the second miraculous meal. It is probable that the multitudes were Gentiles, whose stock of food would have been exhausted by a three days' sojourn; that at least they were not excitable Galilaeans, who might come by force and make him a King. The Pharisees assailed him, asking for a sign. The disciples, by the mouth of Peter, had confessed their faith (Matthew 16:13-28) in more explicit form and force than before (John 6:68, John 6:69), and Christ had explained in yet more definite terms than in the synagogue in Capernaum the needs be for his Passion, death, and resurrection. The Transfiguration on the mountain, with its ineffaceable impressions, had followed, with numerous miracles, parables, and connected instructions (Matthew 16:1-28., Matthew 16:17., Matthew 16:18.). Jesus walked for six months in Galilee, knowing, as we learn from these verses, that the authorities in Jerusalem were utterly hostile to him, and had neither forgotten nor forgiven the assertion of his special claims when he was on the last occasion in Jerusalem at the unnamed feast (be it the Feast of Passover or Tabernacles, the Feast of Purim or Trumpets). The outburst of hostility which kept him so long from Jerusalem was circulating in angry vibrations to the very borders of Galilee. The hour for the final conflict was in abeyance until he had preached more explicitly the Divine gospel of love and redemption, and had left the indestructible seed in human hearts. There was malice in Galileo as well as in Judaea, but it took a different form. Thoma regards the sixth chapter as the ideal treatment by the fourth evangelist of the events recorded in the synoptic narrative, and, strangely enough, treats the wonders on the sea and on the land as parallels to the synoptic account of the temptation! The objection to this is not so much the underlying dissimilarity of idea as the chronological position assigned by Matthew and Luke to the temptation before John was imprisoned, whereas these events occur after his execution. Further, the synoptists record these two miracles in their proper place in the biography as well as describe the temptation. That the deep inner meaning and teaching of John 6:1-71. corresponds with that of the last Supper, no reader can miss; nor that this confession of Peter is the highest point of the earlier and later narratives we do not question; but their striking resemblance to each other, instead of transforming this Gospel into a philosophical allegory, appears to us to prove that we have the same historic Christ in Both narratives. The Feast of Tabernacles,£ the σκηνοπηγία, or tent pitching, called by Philo σκηναί, was the last great feast of the sacred year. It had its relation to the natural and providential goodness of God. Just as the Passover commemorated the opening of the harvest and the first fruits of the grain, and as Pentecost celebrated the completion of the harvest, so the "Tabernacles" implied the ingathering of the fruit of the vine and of the olive, and summed up the joyful acknowledgments for the whole year. Again, as the "Passover" recorded the deliverance from Egyptian bondage by the destroying angel who spared the blood sprinkled home, and the "Pentecost" probably (Maimonides) commemorated the giving of the Law, so the "Tabernacles" recalled in a festive form the time of Israel's wandering in the wilderness, when they dwelt in tabernacles. Joyfulness and astonishing ceremonial characterized the festival. The city of palaces broke out into booths of trees and leaves in every possible space, on walls and housetops in courtyards, and even in waggons and on the backs of camels. The people carried their palm branches and citrons in their hands, and great merriment, almost suggestive of heathen rites, prevailed. It probably gathered up about it, as some Christian festivals have done, other ancient or surrounding customs. The number of bullocks sacrificed during the seven days—one fewer on each day, beginning with thirteen—amounted in all to seventy (13+12+11+10+9+8+7= 70). This the rabbis regarded as referring to the seventy nations of heathendom. Additional peculiarities were conspicuous in the immense number of priests who were required to take part in the sacrifices. The blasts of priests' trumpets which regulated the ceremonial, the great musical procession employed in brining water from the Pool of Siloam, then within the city wall, added another noticeable feature. The water was brought in a golden goblet, and poured into a silver funnel, which conveyed it by pipes to the Kedron, and was thus supposed to bless the thirsty land. This act was accompanied by singing the great Hallel, and the shouts and songs of Zion were heard far over hill and valley. At night time universal illumination prevailed, and huge candelabra in the temple court shed a radiance over the whole city. These peculiarities of the feast rendered it the most popular, if not the most sacred, of all the feasts ('Ant.,' John 8:4, John 8:1, Ἐορτὴ ἁγιωτάτη καὶ μεγίστη). It was a time when the national sentiment often burst into fierce flame. Various historic glories of the past were called to remembrance, and spiritual privileges were symbolized in the ritual. The fact that the feast held this important place in the affections and enthusiasm of the people explains the anxiety of the family of Jesus that, whatever his claims really were, they should be canvassed in the metropolis and decided by the only authorities adequate to the task.
His brethren therefore (pointing to the high significance of this national and triumphant feast) said unto him. These brethren were (Matthew 13:55) James, Joses, Simon, and Judas, and, without entering once more on the much-debated question of their actual relation to Jesus (see John 2:12, and notes), it may be said that this passage in a very marked manner discriminates them from the apostles or disciples, and practically negatives the "cousin" theory derived from the supposed identification of Alphaeus with Cleophas, and consequently of the sons of Alphaeus (James, Judas, and Simon) with the apostles of the same names. The lack of sympathy shown by these men, and the positive assertion of their non-belief in Jesus, is incompatible with the great confession so recently made (ch. 6:68, 69), and cannot (with Hengstenberg and Lange) be diluted into imperfect appreciation of claims which they wished in a secular sense to press forward to full assertion. They appeared here to criticize their Brother's prolonged absence from Jerusalem, and his abstention from the Passover and other national festivals. They would, perhaps sincerely, hurry forward his public demonstration, and compel him to say to the great world what he had been saying in Galilaean villages, in the borders of Tyre, and in the cities of Decapolis. Depart hence, and go into Judaea. "This is the time and place." Thoma sees in this advice the same idea which, on the mount of Transfiguration, was suggested by Moses and Elijah "concerning the departure which the Lord was to accomplish in Jerusalem." The Johannist has clothed the same material insinuation in a dialogue (dialogische verhandlung). It has been said that this kind of advice is rather in favour of the hypothesis that these brethren were elder than Jesus, and possibly the children of Joseph by an earlier marriage, who thus took upon themselves the function of advisers. Such a hint, however (given by Westcott), seems very shadowy confirmation of the theory. Younger brothers would be just as likely to err in the same direction. In order that thy disciples also may behold thy works which thou doest. The words "thy disciples" may (Godet, Luthardt formerly) have had special reference to the fact that our Lord had made in Judaea "more disciples than had John" (John 4:1), that there were even members of the Sanhedrin who had to some extent looked favourably upon him (John 3:1), and needed confirmation of their faith. There may also have been tacit reference to the circumstance recorded in John 6:1-71. that his Galilaean disciples had deserted him; but it is more likely (Meyer) that the brethren took it for granted that those who in numerous places had received his word would be gathered together in Jerusalem, and would have an opportunity of seeing with their own eyes and in consociation with each other the works of healing and might which were being variously reported, canvassed, and disputed in the schools of Galilee. "Thy disciples" is a wide word, and may easily refer to all who, whether in Jerusalem or Galilee, went by his name. It is a designation which, however, does not include the speakers. "The works which thou art doing" is sufficiently illustrated from the group of remarkable events which had eternalized the previous twelve months of the Galilaean ministry (see on John 6:1).
For no man doeth anything in secret, and himself £ seeketh to be known openly. Vulgate, in palam esse. Lucke translates in Latin, "idemque cupit celeber ease." The αὐτός answers to the subject of the verb "doeth," who yet is denied to exist by the οὐδείς. The ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ εἶναι says Meyer, is "to be the opposite of a shy and timid nature," which is very unmeaning. Grimm says of the phrase ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ, "Is se gerendi modus quo aliquis omnibus conspicuus est," and justifies it by this passage and by John 11:54; Coss. John 2:15 (cf. Wis. 5:1, Τότε στήσεται ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ πολλῇ ὁ δίκαιος). So Luthardt: "It denotes that which is open, in contrast to that which is concealed." Westcott settles the meaning of the word by the remark that "the phrase (איסהרפב) is commonly used by the rabbinical writers for 'in public,' as opposed to 'in secret.'" The man who persists in quiet, secret ways of acting, and strenuously avoids publicity, is not the man who seeketh to be illustrious and conspicuous. The brethren see a palpable contradiction between the claims which Jesus is making and the comparative retirement to which he is confining himself. The crowds of the Galilaean lake are blank retirement when compared with the metropolis in the great climacteric festival of the year. The brethren call on Christ to solve the contradiction. It cannot be concealed that Jesus had (Luke 8:16; Luke 11:33; Luke 12:2) repeatedly said, "No man lighteth a lamp and putteth it under a bushel, but on a candlestick," etc.; and so the brothers use Christ's words against himself. But the Lord's idea of needful manifestation, both as to degree, time, and place, was accurately realized and represented in both narratives. If thou doest these things. The αι) is simply the logical premise, without necessarily throwing doubt on the facts. It is not equal, however, to the particle ἐπει, "since." Admitting these works to be real, and these mighty deeds to be correctly reported, there, is from the standpoint of the brethren no other course than that which they suggest: Manifest thyself to the world; i.e. "proceed to the widest arena at once;" "thou art compromising thyself by thy retirement;" "what thou art doing with one hand thou art undoing with the other." "All the Israel world from all lands is crowding to the great feast, thy disciples amongst them; make thyself known; claim the place that belongs to thee." It must be remembered that the disciples (Judas, not Iscariot, especially) said on the very night of the Passion, "How is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world?" This slight note of resemblance with the form of the present admonition of the brothers, is more coincident in the letter than the spirit, and received from the Lord a profoundly different reply (see John 14:22, John 14:23, notes).
For not even did his brethren believe in him. The evangelist, writing a generation later, and keenly remembering the attitude the brothel's had assumed before the Resurrection, adds, "not even his brothers," who ought to have been the most prominent of his disciples, "did up to this time believe on him," i.e. entrust themselves to him, dispose of their prejudices, change their conceptions, accept his spiritual lead, acknowledge his Divine mission, or know him to be the Holy One of God. They had not come into the position of the twelve. What ideas soever they grasped fell immeasurably short of "eating his flesh and drinking his blood," of coming to him, being given to him and drawn to him by the Father. It was a world Messiah, a theocratic King, a Prophet-Captain, a royal Christ, that they sought and would have been glad to find in him. This treatment of the Lord was another striking parallel to the temptation of Jesus as described by the synoptists, "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me" (see note on John 4:1-54., and Introduction, VIII. 5). The non-belief of the brothers is in remarkable unison with the widespread unbelief of the people, who were anxious to discern the Christ of their own traditional expectations, and ready to press almost any possible claimant to premature demonstrations. The Pharisees and the people sought some sign from heaven. But while the people demanded it, they expected that he would and might gratify them if he chose. The Pharisees cynically tempted him to proclaim what they believed would prove his irremediable failure.
Jesus then saith to them (to his brothers), My time (the "season" for my full manifestation to the nation of what I am, or the time to disclose my own idea of my own commission) is not £ yet present. The season or opportunity for my final self-revelation pauses, and I pause for an intimation of the Father's will. This language corresponds with the reply to his mother, "My hour is not yet come" to do what you blindly desire. The kind of manifestation he subsequently made on that occasion was one of love to the needy, not one of power to dazzle the world (see notes, John 2:11). The underlying thought which the postponement suggested was that the approach of Jesus to Jerusalem with the pilgrim throng would be the signal for the final outburst of bitter hostility which he knew was smouldering in the hearts of the Sanhedrists, and would also be the torch applied to the magazine of combustible passion in which he would sacrifice his life. But your time (the season which is yours) is always ready. The brothers were at liberty at any time to show themselves and their works to the world. They had plans akin to those of the world. They shared the fashion of religious thought, the ideal of the Israelitish world, completely. James, for instance, Nazarite though he may have been, punctilious in traditionary ritual, and honouring the conservative passions of his order, might at any time secure the acclamations or approval of the chief powers of the world—their little world. "I" (Christ implied) "wait for the predetermined hour, for the kind of appearance in Jerusalem which will be the giving of my flesh for the life of the world. You are so much in harmony with the world that at any time you may say all that is in your heart. If I go as ,you suggest, it must be as Messiah; you go as pious pilgrims to share in this national celebration."
The world cannot hate you; but it hateth me, because I bear witness concerning it, that its works are evil. The "world" is here used in the current Johannine sense of "humanity unregenerate, humanity without grace, or apart from God." The hatred of the world to Christ was pressing down upon his spirit like an intolerable load. He admitted that, from its own standpoint, there was some justification for the feeling. The world hates its censor; it repels the judgment passed upon it. It is satisfied with itself and its own idea of righteousness. It is satisfied with its own standards and cries and professions, so that to be accused of wrongful notions, of a depravity under the clothing of Pharisaic propriety, of a hidden leprosy which is eating into its vitals, rouses all its animosity. If Christ were to go, he must deliver his soul. Already the thunder peal of Matthew 22-25., to be shortly delivered after full assertion of the nature of his work, and in the metropolis of the theocracy, was hurtling in his soul, and he foresaw the outburst of maddened rage which would follow; but with melancholy and some gentle irony he said, "The world against which I have to deliver my prophetic burden cannot (οὐ δύναται, moral impossibility) hate you! Your aim is to fall in with its demands, to realize its corrupt and unspiritual dreams. You are violating none of its cherished fancies; you are abasing none of its idols; your time is always ready; my time is not yet come."
Go ye up to the £ feast. "Join the pilgrim bands. Take part in the ceremonial of sacrifice and lustration. Be there in good time for the booth building. You have no testimony to deliver against the corruption of the holiest service, the hollowness of the ritual thanksgiving." I go not yet £ unto this feast. The text as it here stands frees the language of our Lord from the charge of Porphyry, or proves that it was founded on false premisses; though the fact that the apparent refusal was so soon followed by a compliance makes it probable that the real point of the sentence rests not so much on the οὔπω as on the ταύτην ἑορτήν. Not as a pilgrim, not in triumphal procession, would he go to the Feast of Tabernacles. He reserved that solemn sacrificial act for a later occasion, He would suffer as the Paschal Lamb, not go to Jerusalem to assert the completion of its acceptable year, and to foment the self-satisfaction of its religious guides. This is not satisfactory, because there is no feast the special features of which seemed to furnish our Lord with more obvious illustrations of his own work and Person. Moreover, he did make his appearance in the midst of the feast. So Godet and Meyer accepted the οὐκ, and urge therefrom the fact that Jesus deliberately altered his intention, so soon as a new motive sufficiently strong presented itself. With the assistance of οὔπω, or with such an emphasis upon the present tense (ἀναβαίνω) as to make it equivalent to the introduction of a νῦν, the passage means. "I am not going up now." Chrysostom, Lucke, De Wette, see in this suggestion the solution of the problem and a preparation for what follows. The word ἐγγύς, "nigh" (John 7:2), may reasonably be interpreted with more latitude than is generally done. It might easily mean a date sufficiently near to be the topic of conversation in the family circle, even were it still a month before the celebration. The preparations may have been made, the pilgrims were beginning to assemble for their long journey, and the "not yet" and the emphasis on the present tense of ἀναβαίνω may easily have been conditioned by some of the special work which had still to be completed in Galilee on the way to Judaea and Persea. Because my season—my special opportunity—has not been yet fulfilled; or, fully come. Probably this clause points to the completion of the predestined hour of his consummation, of the baptism with which he should be baptized, the fire that he would kindle, the work which he would finish.
Having said these things to them, he abode in Galilee. Such a respite cannot mean a few days only. Not until after this period, and possibly after the brethren]rod started on the pilgrimage, did "he steadfastly set his face to go up to Jerusalem." A great question arises as to the possibility of harmonizing this journey with the great intercalated portion of Luke's Gospel (Luke 9:51-31). This is not the place to consider the numerous and complicated problems involved. One thing is certain—that the synoptists all describe the final departure from Galilee, which followed a period of partial retirement from the multitude, and of instructions, miracles, and advice rendered in the inner circle of his immediate followers. They also indicate that, on our Lord's journey to Jerusalem after closing his Galilaean ministry, he went into Judaea, and thence to the land of Peraea on the other side of the Jordan. This latter statement is perfectly in harmony with John's representation (John 10:40), where, after an extended journey in Judaea and the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, we hear that he spent three months beyond Jordan Numerous critics, whose views are well entitled to consideration, urge that on this occasion our Lord did resume his Galilaean ministry and effect his final departure as described in Matthew 19:1. Now, the circumstantial way in which Luke describes incidents upon the last journey to Jerusalem leads many to look for the full chronological detail of this last transaction. It contains, however, many incidents between Joh 9:1-41 :51 and John 18:31, where the final events of the last approach to Jerusalem are brought into chronological relations with the other three Gospels, which could not all have been connected with the journey to the Feast of Tabernacles. Edersheim and Weiss alike infer that, since Luke says nothing of the Feast of Tabernacles, he has reckoned in this period the events appertaining to the Peraean ministry and the return to the Feast of Dedication, as well as the final determination to challenge the authorities at Jerusalem, with his assertion of true Messiahship, and the last approach to Jerusalem. Luke does not describe the route taken, but implies on several occasions Christ's growing determination to confront Jerusalem; and also implies that he had visited it "often" (Luke 13:31-34), with the purpose of gathering it under his gracious sway and protection. There are, moreover, a few incidents mentioned which synchronize with the journey to the Feast of Tabernacles. He went through Samaria instead of by the frequented Peraean route on the other side of Jordan (Luke 9:52). There the Samaritans refuse to receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem, and the Boanerges are rebuked for their Elijah-like desire. The incident of the cure of ten lepers, one of them a Samaritan, probably belongs to the same journey; and, above all, the interesting fragment of the visit to Martha and Mary at a certain village. This village may, as Edersheim suggests, have been the retirement from which our Lord emerged in the midst of the Feast of Tabernacles. Many other of the narratives belong to the closing period of our Lord's life. The most difficult event to harmonize with the suggestions of this passage of John and with the subsequent hints of chronological arrangement, is the choice of the seventy disciples, which Weiss regards as a kind of misapprehension, but which Edersheim (loc cit.,vol. 2:135) believes to have been one of the great events of this journey to the Feast of Tabernacles. It must be admitted that it is strangely inconsistent with the journey which was conducted as it were "in secret." It would be more natural to believe that it was one of the incidents of the ministry in Peraea, of which Mark gives traces, and for which John provides the true place (John 10:40). Lunge and Godet argue that between the departure from the capital (John 9:1-41.) and the Feast of Dedication, our Lord resumed his work in Galilee, and there pursued the abundant ministry recorded between Luke 10:1-42. and 18. (see notes of Godet and Lunge, Luke 10:22; Luke 10:40); and that the final departure from Galilee was with a great convoy. Ewald and Meyer regard this as a violent attempt at harmonistic arrangement of the details before us. To resume the narrative—
But when his brethren were gone up to the feast, £ then went he also up, not manifestly, but as it were in secret. The emendation of the text is important, for it draws attention to the fact that, while the brethren went up to the feast, he simply went up, towards Jerusalem—not, however, in the pilgrim caravan, but as a quiet wayfarer, blessing lepers, comforting souls, pouring forth on a favoured few his truth, till he reached the certain village at the very gates of Jerusalem. What a contrast there was between the first visit (John 2:1-25.), when he appeared suddenly in the temple, and cast out the money changers, or that when (John 5:1-47.) he went to the "unnamed" feast as a pilgrim! The hostility has deepened; the "world" hates its Saviour, because he would save it from its sins, interpret it to itself, and offer spiritual rather than temporal benediction. The phrase, "in secret," has led some of the Tubingen school to suggest a docetic view of the Person of Christ; but the suggestion is reckless and absurd. Moulten, who conceives that the mission of the seventy disciples preceded this advent, says even this does not clash with the idea of a virtually secret and retired advance.
(2) The controversy among "Jews" concerning Christ—his first discussion with them.
The Jews therefore sought him at the feast. The ruling and hostile powers, the unbelieving hierarchy, Caiaphas and his party (John 6:41, John 6:52; John 6:13, John 6:15), because of his non-appearance in the Galilaean caravan, went hither and thither, saying, Where is he?—ἐκεῖνος, "that notorious Person," whose claims maddened us some months agone, and whose deeds are being talked of throughout the city, whom the Galilaeans would have constrained to take up arms and crown: where is he? Luther said that their malice was so great that they forbore to name him. But we can hardly press the ἐκεῖνος so far as that.
And there was much murmuring among the multitudes concerning him. This vivid dramatic touch lifts a veil, and we see the eager excitement of those who fancied themselves duped, or who were at least disappointed by his non-appearance. Some said one thing, and some another. One group was loud in his praises, and another suspicious either of his orthodoxy or his patriotism, or both. Some said, He is a good man; i.e. one who was unselfish, kind, true, beneficent, and honest in his intentions, and one personally trustworthy. But others said—or, were saying; i.e. the murmur, the head shaking, of others was a flat denial of his ἀγάθοτης—Nay; but (on the other hand) he leadeth the multitude astray. The "multitude'' in this clause is probably the vulgar crowd, and the contemptuous reference to them may be the language of the Jerusalem populace rather than the provincial caravans. The multitude would escape from the Pharisaic leading strings, should they embrace his views either concerning the sabbath or the expected Messiah.
Howbeit no man—either those who murmured to each other a favourable or a calumnious judgment—spake out openly concerning him, by reason of (their) fear of the Jews. The hierarchy, the guardians of orthodoxy, the authorities, the rabbis by whose verdict the character and claims of Jesus must be decided, had not publicly delivered their opinion. Those who believed in the "goodness" of Jesus were silenced, or did not proceed beyond a feeble murmur of applause, however much some may have felt the truth of their own impression. Those who came to an adverse opinion were also so much cowed by the "Jews," by the ecclesiastical authorities, that even they did not venture to express themselves save "with bated breath and whispered humbleness," lest they might err in the form of their condemnation.
The section John 7:14-36 contains three discourses: one of which (John 7:14-24) describes the nature and ground of his human ministry; John 7:25-29, while treating the insolence of the multitude, portray an animated scene of conflicting opinion, in the course of which the Lord renewed the assurance of his Divine origin, as well as of the Divine sources of his teaching; John 7:30-36 refer to his approaching death or departure, as part of a Divine plan concerning him. Throughout, with dramatic propriety, the varying opinions of different classes of the people are introduced.
When it was already the midst of the feast; or, when already the festival had reached the middle stage. £ Since the feast lasted seven or eight days, this is reasonably supposed to be on the fourth day. We may presume that he had been spending a few days at Bethany (Luke 10:38), front retirement of which he issued rather as a Prophet and Teacher than as the Messiah of the popular expectation. He went up—he came suddenly—into the temple, into the midst of the crowds where his followers would be found, who would shield him, humanly speaking, from the covert designs of his angry assailants. "He was adorned with the wreath of popular veneration, till this wreath was torn and withered by the poisonous breath of their enmity" (Lange). He went up into the temple, and taught (ἐδίδασκε, continuously taught). We can only conjecture the theme of these instructions. They must have been sufficiently varied and peculiar to have excited much attention. Either parable, or apothegm, or stirring appeal, or quotation and interpretation from the Old Testament, or voice from the fathomless depths of his own consciousness, may have formed its staple. In his burning summons to conscience, and his gracious offers of mercy, the people who had listened to him on the mountainside or lakeside were accustomed to say, "He speaks with authority, not as the scribes."
The Jews therefore marvelled, £ saying, etc. "The Jews," as elsewhere, mean the ruling and learned class, the men of power and weight in the metropolis, who must have heard his teaching. The immediate effect of the appearance and words was great astonishment. In spite of themselves, they are moved by the command he manifested over all the springs of thought and feeling. The point of their astonishment is, not that he is wise and true, but that he could teach without having been taught in their schools. How doth this man know letters? (not the "Holy Scriptures," ἱερα γράμματα, nor πάσας γραφάς, but simply γράμματα, literature, such as we teach it; cf. Acts 26:24). He can interpret our oracles; he is acquainted with the methods of teaching, though he has not learned—has never sat in any of our schools. Saul of Tarsus was brought up at the feet of Gomaliel. And ordinarily a man was compelled to undergo a lengthened noviciate in the schools before he was allowed to assume the office of a teacher. The inherited wisdom of the past is in the great majority of cases the basis of the most conspicuous teaching of the most original and unique of the great sages. The "Jews" were sufficiently acquainted with the origin and training of Jesus to be astonished at his knowledge of the interpretations of Scripture and other wisdom. "This tells powerfully against all attempts, ancient and modern, to trace back the wisdom of Jesus to some school of human culture" (Meyer). The attempts to establish a connection between the teaching of Christ and the hidden wisdom of the Zendavesta, or esoteric utterances of Buddha, or even the traditionary teaching of the Essenes, or the Platonizing schools of Alexandria or Ephesus, have failed. The mystery of his training as a man in the village of Nazareth is one of the evidences given to the world that there was an unknown element in his consciousness. He had not even the advantage of the schools of Hillel or Gamaliel. His own wondrous soul, by much pondering on the genuine significance of the Scriptures, is the only explanation to which even his enemies can appeal. Jesus knew the meaning, heard the murmuring of their surprise on this head, and so we read—
Jesus therefore £ answered them and said, etc. He met this particular allegation as follows: My teaching is not mine. The "my" refers to the teaching itself, the "mine" to the ultimate authority on which it rests. I am not a self-taught Man, as though out of the depths of my own independent human consciousness I span it. I do not mean you to suppose that my mere human experience is the sole source of my instructions (John 5:31). If you have sat at the feet of those who taught you, I, too, am a Representative of another; but (the ἀλλά after οὐκ is not equivalent to tam … quam. It introduces here the absolute source of all his teaching) it is the teaching of him who sent me. I have not learned in your schools, but am uttering the thoughts that come from an infinitely deeper source. "He who sent me" gave them to me. I have been in intimate communion with HIM. All that I say is Divine thought. I have drawn it all from the Lord of all. I came from him, and represent to you the will of God. This is a lofty prophetic claim, more urgent, more complete, than that made by Moses or Isaiah. Special messages, oracles, and burdens were delivered by the prophets with a "Thus saith the Lord." But Jesus says his thoughts are God's thoughts, his ways God's ways, his teachings not his own, but altogether those of him who sent him.
The moral test is then applied to the great dictum which he had just uttered. If any man willeth—not merely desires, but performs the distinct act of willing—to do his will—as his will—he shall know; i.e. his intellectual faculty will be quickened into high activity by this moral and practical effort. If the Divine will concerning conduct meets the spontaneous act of the human will, if a man's will is set to fulfil the Divine will, to will and do what is revealed to him by God, the eye of the soul will be opened to see other things as well, and especially will have power to discern the all-pervading Divine element in this teaching of mine. He shall know concerning (περί) the teaching, whether it be of (ἐκ) God, or whether I speak from myself—from the simple ground of my own independent, self-taught humanity. The first and natural application of this mighty dictum and condition was a test by which the Jews might come at once to the understanding of his more than prophetic claim to teach—he having never learned in their rabbinical schools. It amounted to this: Your moral harmony with the will of God as already revealed to you will be the sure index and confirmation of the great fact I have just referred to. You will discern the Divine in my words, the absolutely true in my teaching. Here the Lord again refers to the great principle, "He that hath heard of the Father, and learned, cometh unto me;" "He that is of the truth heareth my voice." This moral submission to God will quicken all your powers to discern and come to an invincible assent as to my claims. This is not the deep subjective testimony of the inner intuition of those that already believe, by which a verbal assent becomes a fall consent, an unchangeable conviction, or "the full assurance of faith;" but it is addressed to unbelievers, and assures those who are bewildered by the novelty and sweep of his own words that, if they are set on doing the will of God, they will become perfectly satisfied that his own teaching, such as it is, is a stream of heavenly truth bursting from the very heart of God. The text has been cited by certain writers as the sum toted of the Christian revelation, almost as though it substituted practical obedience for true thinking, as though people might well be content with holy living, and might; safely leave the decision of all difficult problems of thought and revelation to shift for themselves. Nothing could be further from its real meaning, either at the time or in any of its subsequent or universal applications. The solemn utterance has a wide outlook, and is constantly establishing its own verity. A profound and voluntary desire to do the will of God is the best preparation for intuitively perceiving the Divine authority of Christ and of his religion. The desire for holiness of principle and life sees in Christ not only the loftiest ideal of perfection, but the surest satisfaction to its conscious weakness, and casts itself upon his promises of saving power. The faith which is satisfied with Christ is not merely a conclusion drawn by logical processes from satisfactory premisses, it is the consequence of a new nature or a moral regeneration. In other words, it is the more practical and expanded form of the truth first of all addressed to Nicodemus, and also lying at the heart of the Beatitudes: "Except a man be born anew [from above], he cannot see the kingdom of God." If he is born again he will see it. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." "No man can come unto me except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him." The sentence presents the truth in a hopeful and positive form, and puts the criterion of the Divine informant within the reach of practical ethics. It is an appeal to the conscience as well as to the understanding. Apart from the subjective moral element, all other evidences of the presence of the Divine in nature, in history, in Christ, will be unimpressive and unimportant. A willingness to do the will of God is not a substitute for, but a condition of, true knowledge.
The following sentence is perfectly general and applicable to all teachers of Divine truth, though it only reaches its highest expression in Christ himself. But while it has numerous applications, its first use is to ratify the previous statements, and prepare the way for what is to follow. He that speaketh from himself. This was an act which he, in his own case, disclaimed. The "himself" was here the personality which then was in question as a human Teacher. He that speaketh from himself as the Source of all his instructions. He who would take the credit of being the primal Cause and Orion of the message which he delivers is a man who seeketh his own glory, his own reputation, at the expense of those who instructed him. The Jewish schoolmen were most anxious at all times to found their instructions on Rabbi "This," or "That," who had himself quoted from some more ancient father of their erudition. A man who should presume to teach in his own name would be one who was manifestly not seeking any higher end than his own glory. Ambition of personal glory and renown is the very thing the absence of which the multitude condemned in Christ's case. The brethren of Jesus had tauuted him with the lack of bold self assertion. Our Lord's own position just taken was that his teaching was not self-originated, but was the teaching or message "of him that sent him." But whoso (he added) seeketh the glory of him that sent him, whether the sender be a mortal man and earthly teacher, or be the Lord God of the whole world, i.e. "whoso loses his own individual purpose in the will of God, and is content to be nothing so that God may be glorified," this person (οὗτος) is true, trustworthy; his message is not perverted by any of the contaminating influences of the self-hood, or flesh, and there is no unrighteousness (ἀδικία is a stronger antithesis to ἀληθής than ψεῦδος is. It is the moral basis out of which falsehood springs)—no unrighteousness in him. The sentence is general, but has its prime application to Christ's own ease. It is a reply to the charge that "he deceiveth the people." It is a further challenge to those who are willing to do the will of God. It is a summons to proceed a step further, and recognize the fact that the glory of God, and not his own glory, was the sole end of his teaching, and that the direct command from him that sent him formed the substance of his doctrine, however much it might clash with their preconceived ideas or dominant prejudices.
Jesus was not unaware that serious charges were brought against his interpretation of the sabbatic law; that the Jews sought to kill him for his identification of his own mind and working with the Father's mind and working. On this account for a considerable time he had confined his ministry to Galilee. The old story of the sabbath healing was now rife once more, doubtless augmented with the rumors of the healing of the man with the withered hand, and other actions profoundly in harmony with the deep meaning of the sabbath rest. To the mind of the fourth evangelist; the explanation given by Christ to the authorities in Jerusalem was of prime significance in the whole sabbatic controversy; and he has recorded the defence Jesus made of his doctrine which placed him at once on the platform of the men with whom he was now beginning a life-and-death conflict. He used their methods, and, so far as the adequate grounds of connection were concerned, he was triumphant, Did £ not Moses give you the Law?—the whole revealed Law of God concerning moral conduct and daily ritual, a violation of the real spirit of which would be ἀδικία, and of which you accuse me—and (yet) none of you doeth the Law? Does he here call attention to the universal disobedience of mankind? Is he forestalling the declaration that "all have sinned, and come short;" that "in many things all offend"? Certainly not. He is about to show at greater length that the charge of ἀδικία stands equally against the justifiable transposition of the letter of the lower law by the incidence of a higher law. They must all know the innumerable occasions in which the letter of the law of the sabbath gave way to the law of mercy, to the law of hunger, to the exigencies of the temple services. "None of you doeth the Law," i.e. in the sense in which you are (from other motives) expecting me to do it. He said enough to strike their consciences and charge home their cherished if secret purpose. Why do ye seek to kill me? With what right, since this is the case, do ye vent your malice against me? Meyer and Godet hero differ as to the emphasis laid upon the "me." The position of the enclitic με before ζητεῖτε gives it a prominence not to be overlooked. The interpretation of many—that the intention or desire to kill Jesus is the inward proof that the conscience of the Jews would admit that they were not keeping the Law which said, "Thou shalt not kill"—is very far-fetched, and weak in its force, although, according to the entire old covenant, there was much killing which was not murder. Such a reference would not correspond with the profoundly Hebrew response made by our Lord. Calvin here makes this reply of Christ a text on which to denounce, in his own day, the corruption of the papal court.
(3) Treatment of the ignorance and insolence of the multitude.
The multitude, who broke out in angry and ignorant remonstrance, answered (and said). £ Thou hast a daemon. Who is seeking to kill thee? Thou must have some evil spirit tormenting thee with such cruel and melancholy foreboding (cf. John 8:48; John 10:20). This was an outburst of insolent and ignorant amazement on their part, that One who taught so wonderfully "should imagine what they deem a moral impossibility and dark delusion" (Meyer). The design rankling in the hearts of the authorities was too well known to our Lord, and, not deigning to notice the interruption and the insult, he continued—
Jesus answered and said to them; i.e. to the multitude wire had so coarsely treated him, and to the "Jews" who were present, who were all marvelling together at the line he was taking. The very interruption was a proof both of the extent and consequence of their wonderment. One work I did, and ye are all marvelling. This one work was a very small fraction of his mighty signs, but it was one which, from its manner of operation, and from the fact that it was immediately brought before the religious authorities as an unlawful act (John 5:1-47.), and which, moreover, became the occasion for one of the greatest of his discourses, and for his solemn claim to be the Son of God and the Arbiter of life and death, of resurrection and judgment, made the profoundest impression on the Sanhedrin, compelled them to think that he was a Man who must be sooner or later arrested, and who deserved condign punishment. He must be either submitted to, confined as a madman, or killed as a blasphemer.
Moses on this account (for this cause) £ hath given (assigned) you the circumcision (not that it is of Moses, but of the fathers). If we accept the text as above, the question arises—Does it refer to the parenthetical clause or to the principal verb? Meyer renders as follows: "Therefore Moses gave you circumcision, not because it originated with Moses, but (because it originated) with the fathers, and so ye circumcise," etc., making the precedence of the law of circumcision to the sabbatic law part of the very purport of his appointment. But many others, "For this cause"—to teach this lesson—Moses, who gave the ten commandments, one of which involved the sabbatic rest, took up into the Law which he gave you the still older law of the Abrahamic covenant, and laid down the stringent rule that the rite must be performed on the eighth day (Le John 12:3)—a principle which was seen to involve the infringement of the sabbath law. This is, in substance, the view of Moulton, Lange, Westcott, and others. To expound the διὰ τούτο by the οὐχ ὅτι is (Westcott) contrary to the usage of 2 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 3:5; Philippians 4:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; but it is still more against the argument. Moses did not give circumcision because it was of the fathers,—at least that is not the point; but Jesus argues that he gave circumcision as a mode of legislation which will involve a modification of his own sabbatic regimen. Stringent as was the law of the sabbath, it would have, on occasion, to yield to the more searching and stringent rule of admission into the covenant of grace. "If the sabbath could give way to a mere ceremonial law, how much more to a work of mercy, which is older and higher than any ritual!" 'Mish. Sabb.,' 19:1, fol. 128, b, "Everything required for circumcision may be completed on the sabbath;" and so 19:2. The reason is given: 'Midrash Tanchuma,' fol. 9, b, "The healing of a sick man dangerously ill, and circumcision, break through the sabbath sanctity."
If a man on (a) sabbath receive circumcision, which was the removal by surgical means of what was regarded as a cause and sign of physical impurity, as well as the seal of the covenant made with the family of Abraham, that his seed should be heir of the world, and that in that seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed, in order that the law of Moses might not be broken. It is not without difficulty that, in the previous verse, the law of circumcision on the eighth day is declared to be older than Moses, to have come down from the fathers of the consecrated race: how, then, does he call it the law of Moses? Clearly he refers to the fact that this particular law was embodied by Moses and made part of his own code, even though in one respect it was obviously older than the particular form of the fourth commandment, and must frequently clash with the letter of that commandment. The law of Moses, then, as much as the law of the Abrahamic covenant, would have been broken by any infraction of the rule which made circumcision incumbent on the eighth day. The common custom of the people was to adminster this rite on that day, even if it fell on a sabbath. "None of you keepeth the Law" in its Strict integrity, said Jesus. Nay, it is certain that the older laws, which Moses endorsed and embodied in his own code, do themselves demand such violation from you. This appeal to the spirit of the Law—the closest approach that a Jew could make to the will of God—is reproduced in Paul's Epistles (Colossians 2:11; Ephesians 2:11). Are ye then wroth with me (χολᾶτε, χολᾶν (from χολῆ, bile, gall)—to be bitter with wrath, and even mad with rage, is found in 3 Macc. 3:1, but not elsewhere in the New Testament)—because I made an entire man—i.e. the whole frame of the paralyzed man (not his spirit or mind in contrast with his body)—sound—or, healthy—on a sabbath day? The antithesis is not between healing the wound of circumcision and healing the paralytic. Of the former there does not seem the faintest trace, notwithstanding the conjecture of Lampe. Circumcision was the removal of an offending portion of the human body, the sanitary purpose of which rite was strenuously believed in, but it was a partial cleansing and actual excision of one member of the body. To accomplish this purpose Moses, by his enactment, regarded even the sabbatic law as subsidiary. Why, then are the Jews wrathful with Jesus for making an entire man—a whole physical frame—healthful on the sabbath? The stress laid on the Authorized version and R.T. translations, "every whit whole," by some commentaries is unfortunate; for it would throw discredit on circumcision altogether, which was far from our Lord's contention here, and would reduce the force of his argument. Christ does not in this argument take up the great line of defence pursued in ch. 5. Nor does he call the healing of the paralytic more than an ἔργον, a "work;" but it must be remembered that he had spoken on the previous occasion of his great miracles as "works," the like to which he saw the Father ever doing.
Judge not according to appearance ― the superficial aspect of things, the merely formal side, the unexplained letter of the Law. Οψις id quod sub visum cadit res in conspicuo posita. According to that, the healing and the bed carrying consequent upon it would be a positive infraction of a certain enactment. But judge £ righteous judgment. Consider the case, and see that I have done, in this act of healing, less than you are doing yourselves, notwithstanding all your punctilio, and with a higher justification. The aorist κρίνατε involves probably "the one true and complete decision which the case admits" (Westcott).
(4) Special perplexity of some Jerusalemites, and Christ's reply. A second scene is here described, not necessarily on the day of his first appearance in the temple, though it took place in the temple (John 7:28). We see, however, a new wave of feeling. The multitude, or part of it, that gathered round him was maddened with his intimation of the murderous animosity of the authorities; but the dwellers in Jerusalem were better informed of the malignant spirit he had excited.
Therefore—by reason of his bold self-vindication—some of the Jerusalemites were saying, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? If the multitudes of the provincials were ignorant of the design of the hierarchy, the plot was not a complete secret.
And behold he speaketh openly (see John 7:4 and John 7:13), and they say nothing to him. They neither tackle him in argument nor refute his self-vindication, neither do they arrest him or carry out their known project. Have they altered their minds? Are they convinced of his claims? Has he successfully rebutted the charge of sabbath breaking? Does it all vanish on close approach? Then they go a step further, which, if it were the true explanation, would entirely account for their obvious indecision. They even say to one another, with sufficient frequency for the reporter to have heard it, Can it be that the rulers £ indeed know (μήποτε ἔγνωσαν, did they at any time come to perceive? The particle expects a dubious though negative response, "we don't think so; but is it probable? surely not!") that this (person) isf15 the Christ? The rulers must decide this weighty matter, for us at least who dwell in Jerusalem. The question shows how widespread, how detailed, was the idea of the coming Christ. This supposition with reference to their rulers was momentary, and conflicted with another standing objection to the claims of Jesus.
Howbeit we know this Man whence he is; that is, they knew his parentage, the place of his early life, the father, mother, brothers, and sisters (Matthew 13:55, Matthew 13:58). There was none of the mystery about him which they anticipated for their Messiah. It is even intimated that it was known where he was born (John 7:41, John 7:42), and that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem, so that the mere fact of birthplace is not the difficulty that occurred to them. A tradition had gathered, which was perhaps originated by Daniel 7:13 or Malachi 3:1, that he would make a sudden descent on the temple—a dazzling appearance at his Messianic enthronization, coming in the clouds of heaven, and that none would "declare his generation." So, according to 'Sanh.,' 97, a, "three things are wholly unexpected—Messiah, a god-send, and a scorpion" (cf. 'Mid. on Song of Solomon 2:9'). Justin Martyr puts into the lips of Trypho, 'Dial.,' 8, "But Christ—if he has indeed been born, and exists anywhere—is unknown, and does not even know himself, and has no power until Elias come to anoint him and make him manifest to all." So these Jerusalemites said, When the Christ cometh (ἔρχηται makes his Christwise manifestation—is in act of coming), no one knoweth whence he is. This Messianic manifestation has been tardy and gradual, if it be one at all We know the home, the daily upbringing of Jesus—we know whence he is, or think we do; and so the whole affair clashes with a current expectation. We know enough, too much, of this Jesus for it to be possible for him to fill up this portion of the Messianic programme. This may have been the outcome of the general criticism. Other defects, according to their idea, may have been urged. The many-sidedness of the hope, the vagueness of the dream, as it shaped itself in current Jewish thought, suffered almost any amount of doubt as to the exact form of the approaching manifestation. That to which our Lord especially replied revealed the practical and ethical claim he advanced to their acceptance from himself of the word of the Lord.
Jesus therefore cried—lifted up his voice in such a way as to cause wide astonishment. (The word is found in John 1:15 of John the Baptist, and John 1:37 and John 12:44; but frequently in the synoptists and Acts, and very frequently in the LXX.) The trumpet peal sounded through the courts of the temple, and the crowds rushed in the direction from which it proceeded. He cried in the temple. This clause is added, notwithstanding the statement of John 7:14, and it intimates a break in the discourse, a sudden and trenchant response to certain loudly uttered murmurs of the Jerusalem multitude. Ye both know me, and know whence I am. Surely (with De Wette, Meyer, Westcott, Moulton) the Lord distinctly concedes to the men of Jerusalem a certain amount of superficial knowledge. It is lamentably defective in respect of that for which they imagine it all-sufficient; and yet this knowledge was highly significant and important as far as it went. Such knowledge of his birthplace and his family, his provincial training, his Galilaean ministry, were all proofs to them of his humanity—that he belonged to their race, was bone of their bone, and sympathizing in their deepest sorrows, understood their noblest aspirations. Such a concession, moreover, repudiates the supposed docetic character of the Christ of the Fourth Gospel. Many commentators regard the exclamation its ironical and interrogatory (Grotius, Lampe, Calvin, Lucke, and even Godet), without sufficient warrant. Our Lord, however, soon shows that, though they are rightly informed about certain obvious facts, there were others of stupendous importance which could go a long way towards rcconciling their many-sided and conflicting ideas of Messiah, of which they were yet in ignorance. And yet I am not come from myself (see John 5:30). I have not risen upon the wings of my own ambition. It is not my mere human whim and purpose, or my desire for self-glorification, which brings me before you. You may know the home of my childhood; and watched as I have been by your eager spies, as you had full right to do, you may know all my public proceedings, and yet you have not fathomed the fact that I have not come on my own errand, nor does my humanity as you have grasped it cover the whole of the facts about me. There is a peculiarity, a uniqueness, about my coming that you have yet to learn. I have been sent to you; but he that sent me is real—a reality to me, which makes it an absolute reality in itself. The use of ἀληθινός is somewhat peculiar, and, unless with some commentators and Revisers we make it equal to ἀλήθης, and thus disturb the uniform usage of St. John, we must either imagine under the word a real "Sender," or one really answering to the idea already announced as of One competent to send. "He that sent me, the Father," of whom I spoke (John 5:37) when last we conversed together, is the overwhelming Reality in this case. Whom ye know not. The Jerusalem multitudes were suffering grievously from the superstitious limitations of their own faith, from the traditions, the symbolism, the letter, the form, which had well nigh strangled, suffocated, the underlying truths. They had in many ways lost the God whose great Name they honoured. They failed to apprehend his awful nearness to them, his love to every man, his compassion to the world, the demand of his righteousness, the condition of seeing him, the way to his rest—"Him ye know not." This was a serious rebuke of the entire system which prevailed at Jerusalem. Not understanding nor knowing the Father, they were unable to see the possibility of his having sent to them, through the life and lips of a Man whom they knew, his last and greatest message.
(But) £ I know him; because I am from him—my inmost nature, the centre of my ego, proceeds, is derived, from him. I have come forth from him. There is that about me and my origin which has brought me into such intimate relations with the Father that I know him as ye do not know him (cf. John 8:55)—and he (whom I thus know, and to whom I refer, ἐκεῖνος) sent me. This sending is a further condition of the knowledge which you fail to appreciate, but which would make all things plain to you. If this knowledge should break as the daystar on their darkness, would they not at once see that, up to that point at least, in their experience they did not know, or had not known, whence he was, in the grandest sense. The charge of ignorance and the claim of supernatural knowledge, Divine origin, Divine commission, was too much for these Jerusalemites. They thought it blasphemy.
(5) The divided opinions and conduct of the different groups around him; the attempt on his life, and its failure.
They sought therefore to seize him: and (equivalent to "but;" see John 7:28) no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. It was in their heart to combine with "the Jews," but none dared to touch him. There were political considerations, there were lingering and coruscating fires of enthusiasm burning in the hearts of those who had seen his great works; and probably an awe, a superstitious fear, of some stroke of his reputed power held them back. The evangelist once more notices the true cause of this arrest of their malignity: "The hour" for the termination of his self-revelation, for the completion of his self-surrender, the hour which to the beloved disciple's eye was the very consummation of the ages, had not struck.
The antagonism and the faith come into sharper expression. As the spirit-like words stir up malignant passion, they also excite new and deepening confidence. The flash of lightning, which reveals to many the glory of a landscape, may strike others blind or dead. While the authorities are harder, more unspiritual and blinder, than before, yet many of the multitude—i.e. off the general crowd, whether belonging to Jerusalem or not—believed on him, passed into the glorious illumination which falls on his own Person, and all things else. We cannot say that the whole was cleared up to them, but it was an acceptance by them to some extent of his Messianic claims. He was more than a mere Prophet to them, or Leader, as is obvious from the tone of the speech which follows: And they said (were saying to one another), while others, perhaps, so soon as they had taken his side, began to urge his claims on those that doubted—When the Christ shall come, will he do more signs than those £ which this Man hath done? £ The omission of τούτων makes the question refer to the entire group of signs which had been already performed, and not confine itself to the proceedings of Jesus in Jerusalem. They expected Messiah to give proof of his Divine commission (cf. Matthew 11:4, Matthew 11:5, Matthew 11:20-25). Has not Jesus satisfied all reasonable claims? The question was like fire in touchwood. A conflagration might at any moment burst from the excitable throng which no decision of the Sanhedrin could repress. Something must at once be done to allay the excitement. In the crowd which was pressing the claims of Jesus were many Pharisees, an immensely larger element in the population than the chief priests, and therefore more likely at once to bring such information to the central religious authority.
The Pharisees £ heard the multitude (generally) murmuring these things concerning him; repeating the language of those who believed, comparing their expectations with the reality. They seem to have occasioned a hasty and informal session of the Sanhedrin, and we read that the chief priests and the Pharisees £ sent officers—servants "clothed with legal authority," and therefore intimating a decision already come to in the supreme council (cf. John 11:53; John 18:3, John 18:12; John 19:6; Acts 5:22, Acts 5:26)—to seize him (cf. this description of the Sanhedrin in Matthew 21:45; Matthew 27:62). The "chief priests"—a phrase often occurring in the writings of Luke, and here for the first time in this Gospel—cannot be confined to the official "high priest," but may include the ex-high priests, perhaps the heads of the twenty-four courses of priests and the chiefs of the priestly party, though there is no proof of it. The Pharisees and priests were often at enmity, but there were several occasions during our Lord's ministry when they combined against a common foe. The Pharisees had been his most steady opponents in Galilee. The eighth and ninth chapters of Matthew, with parallel passages, reveal the growing animosity of their demeanour, and their disposition to misunderstand, to oppose, and to crush every great self-revelation made by him. Their chiefs were in Jerusalem, and doubtless formed a powerful element in the great council. The formality of this session of the council may be reasonably questioned. There had been orders then for the arrest, which they had only to put at any time, if they dared, into immediate operation.
Jesus therefore said. £ We are left in doubt to whom he addressed these weighty words, probably to the entire group of friends and foes. Yet a little while am I with you (six months would bring round the last Passover). The movement had not escaped him. It is as though he had said, "I see all that will happen. This is my death struggle with those whom I am sent to teach and save. For a little while only will the possibility of approach to me for life and peace be continued. You have taken steps to shorten my career. You would even now silence me." And I go £ unto him that sent me. I am going; you are hurrying me back to the Father who sent me on this commission of instruction and of life giving. This was in a sense enigmatical and puzzling. It might bear other meanings than the one which we now see it to have borne. It is quite extravagant of Reuss to describe the misunderstandings of Christ's hearers as an intolerable contradiction. We are not so ready or able to understand any of our Lord's words in all their fulness even now.
Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me. Many interpretations are given of this.
(1) Origen and Grotius refer it to a hostile search for him which would not be gratified; but the whole story of the arrest which follows, as well as the quotation of these words in John 13:33, prove that this was not his meaning.
(2) Augustine and others imagine penitential seeking when it would be too late. This is not justified by the connection. The limitation of the day of grace for seeking souls is not the theme of this address, and it is, save under special circumstances, no teaching of the New Testament.
(3) The ideas of Hengstenberg and others, so largely built on the great texts in Proverbs 1:28 and Amos 8:12, show that the Messiah would be sought by them when they had utterly rejected Jesus. We do not believe that a genuine search for the Lord will ever be disappointed, but a vicious and vain search may be possible when the opportunity for due approach has gone by forever. Moments, catastrophes, did arrive in their tragic history when they had passionately desired, but in vain, to see one of the days of the Son of man. The individuals who turned to him found the veil which concealed him taken away (2 Corinthians 3:16). The nation as a whole was blinded; they crucified their King, the Lord of glory; and they brought uttermost extinction on themselves as a nation. "They sought their Messiah in vain" (Weiss). Where I am—in the glory in which I dwell, and to which I belong, and to which I am now inviting you—you cannot come. "The door will be shut;" you will not "have known the day of your visitation." "How often would I have gathered you, but ye would not!" The seeking cannot be the search of penitence, but of unavailing despair. You have the opportunity now. In a little while I go, and then you will find it impossible to follow me.
The Jews therefore said among themselves, Whither will this Man go, £ that we shall not find him? With their murderous designs they are blinded even to the meaning of his words. They pretend that he was not making any reference to their sworn purpose of rejecting his claims. They would not lift their thoughts to that eternal glory in which he would soon, by their own execrable acts, be enshrouded. They could not grasp the eternal life involved in the acceptance of the Father's revelation in him. They are resolved to put ironical and confusing meaning into his words, to pour an air of contempt over his reply; and to insert veritable though unconscious prophecy of their own into his words. Will he gof23 to the Dispersion (of)—or, among—the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? The word "Greek" is, throughout the New Testament, the Gentile, the Pagan world, at that time so largely Greek in speech, if not in race. Another word, "Grecian" or "Hellenist," is used for the Jews who had adopted Greek ideas, habits, and speech. Whatever may be the strict meaning of that word (see Roberts's 'Discussions on the Gospels,' and other works, where that writer seeks to establish the Greek-speaking peculiarity of all Palestinian Jews, and limits the word to Greek ideas rather than to Greek speech), the word "Greek" is the antithesis to "Jew" in every respect. The Dispcrsion (τῶν Ἑλλήνων) may mean
(1) the Jewish dispersion among the Greeks beyond the limits of Palestine (2 Macc. 1:27). It is also found in Josephus for the outcast of Israel (see LXX. Psalms 146:2; cf. James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1). There was a wide "dispersion" in Babylon and Syria, throughout Persia, Egypt, Asia Minor, and Cyprus, even in Achaia, Macedonia, and Italy. The Dispersion was the Greater Israel. Most intimate relations subsisted between these scattered Israelites and their political and ecclesiastical centre in the metropolis. Often those at the greatest distance front the temple were the most passionately loyal and patriotic. But for the Messiah to commence a prophetic career among them, after having been repudiated by the great council of the nation, was a bitter sarcasm. But
(2) the "Dispersion'' may refer to the wide scattering of the Greeks themselves, the natural antithesis to God's covenanted people.
Now (1) is certainly a very awkward and unique rendering of the genitive, and (2) applies the "dispersion'' in a peculiar sense not elsewhere used. Alford says the word means the land where the Jews are scattered. Still, (2) appears to me a fair rendering of the words, especially as it is followed by "and teach the Greeks." Nothing could more adequately express the utter scorn of the Jewish mind for a pseudo-Messiah who, failing with his own people, and hero in the courts of the Lord's house, would turn to the Gentiles. Such a bare supposition would bring utter discomfiture, as they thought, upon his claims. What a forecast they made in their malicious suggestions! Long before John reported this speech he himself had taken up his seat in Ephesus. In all the great cities of the empire it was avowed on both sides that "in Christ Jesus there was neither Jew nor Greek." Had not Jesus already given indication of this laxity as to the privileges of Israel: "Many shall come," etc. (Matthew 8:11)? Had he not referred to the ministry of Elijah and Elisha severally to the Syro-Phoenician and the Syrian (Luke 4:25-27)? Had he not shown culpable leniency to the hated Samaritan? Surely they meant to suggest the uttermost treason to the traditions of Israel, when they thus chose to put a meaning into his words. Like Caiaphas in John 11:49-51, they said and prophesied more than they knew. Archdeacon Watkins says, "The irony of history is seen in the fact that the very words of these Jews of Palestine are recorded in Greek, by a Jew of Palestine, presiding over a Christian Church in a Gentile city."
What is this word (λόγος) which he spake, Ye shall seek me, and ye shall not find (me), £ and where I am, ye cannot come? This verse is simply a repetition of the Lord's sentence, which, notwithstanding their damaging interpretation and unconscious prophecy of great events, haunted them with a weird power, and left them, as his word left the officers who were silenced and paralyzed by it, with a sense of undiscovered and awful meaning. Both here and in John 7:45 we see that the evangelist had access to the ideas and converse of the "Jews," which proves that he had special sources of information to which the ordinary synoptic tradition was strange. The thought grows upon one that John was more than the mere fisherman of the lake. He was a friend of Nicodemus, and known to Caiaphas. It is clear that some further time elapses. This conversation, of which we have the prominent items, the chief utterances, was producing its effect upon the two-sided multitude, upon "the Jews," the "Pharisees," the city party, the chief priests. The Lord probably retired once more to the house of Lazarus or of John.
(6) The claim to be Organ and Giver of the Holy Spirit.
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast. A question arises—Was the last day the seventh or the eighth day? and why was it called the great day? The question cannot be finally answered. The Feast of Tabernacles, according to Numbers 29:12 and Deuteronomy 16:13, is said to last seven days; and, so far as the Mosaic ceremonial goes, the ceremonial of the seventh day was less imposing and festive than either of the preceding days. But Numbers 29:35 shows that the eighth day was also celebrated as a solemn assembly, on which no servile work could be done (cf. Leviticus 23:36; Nehemiah 8:18). In 2 Macc. 10:6 eight days of the feast were spoken of. On the day of holy convocation the people removed or left their booths, and thus commemorated, with great rejoicing, the close of the wilderness period and the commencement of their national history. It may, moreover, have been called "the great day" because it was the closing day of all the festivals of the year. Josephus calls it "the very sacred close (συμπέρασμα) of the year." The LXX. gives the curious translation ἐξοδίον, for azereth, equivalent to "assembly." This ἐξοδίον Philo describes as the end of the festivals of the sacred year. Meyer, Alford, Godet, Lange, and many others regard the eighth day as that here referred to by the word "great," and find, in the very absence of the ceremonial of drawing water from the Pool of Siloam, the occasion which provoked the reference of our Lord to his own power to meet the spiritual thirst of mankind, thus repeating what he had said to the woman of Samaria of his own grace, with further and nobler expansions. The songs which had been sung on every previous day of the feast were sung without the special rejoicings and water ceremonial. Hence some have thought that the very contrast between the previous days and this last day, "great" in other respects, may have made the reference quite as impressive as if the following words had been spoken in some pause, or at the conclusion of the great Hallel of the seventh day. So Westcott. It should, however, be noted that Rabbi Juda (in the Genesisara on 'Succah') asserts that the water pouring took place on the eighth day as well. This is supposed, by Lange, to be inaccurate or a later addition. Edersheim, however, has given strong reasons for believing that very special ceremonial took place on the seventh day. The people, all carrying in both hands their palm, myrtle, and citron branches, divided into three companies, one of which waited in the temple, one went to Moya to fetch willow branches to adorn the altar, and a third repaired with music to the Pool of Siloam, where the priest filled his golden goblet with water, and returned, with blast of trumpet, by the water gate, to the court of the priests. There he was joined by other priests with vessels of wine. The water was poured into the silver funnel, and at this act burst forth the great Hallel in responsive chorus. The people shook their palm branches as they sang the words, "Oh, give thanks unto the Lord." On the last day, the great day of the feast, the priests compassed the altar seven times before the sacrifices were kindled, and the songs accompanying the ceremony of this day were called "the great Hosanna." As the people left the temple they shook off their willow leaves on the altar, and beat their palm branches to pieces. Edersheim thinks that it was at the moment when the pause after the great Hallel occurred that Jesus lifted up his voice, and there is much probability in the suggestion. Alford, accepting the non-pouring of the water on the eighth day, considers that the very absence of that ceremonial provided the opportunity for the great utterance which follows. Chrysostom says, on the eighth day, "when they were returning home, he giveth them supplies." Jesus stood and cried—adopting an unusual attitude of command, and unaccustomed energy of voice (John 1:35 and John 1:28, note) ― If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. Christ thus identifies himself with the deepest meaning of the Old Testament and the Hebrew ritual. The sabbath and the temple found the highest expression of their meaning in his life and work. Godet thinks that the underlying reference here was to that of which the ceremonial was a memorial, and pointed to the smiting of the rock in the wilderness, from whose hidden depths the rushing waters flowed. The cry, "If any man thirst," might certainly recall the terrible drought in the wilderness, though there does not seem to me any definite reference to it in what follows. The libation of water was certainly not offered to the multitudes to drink, but the ritual use of water treats it as an dement absolutely essential to our human life. The people gave thanks that they had reached a land where fell the early and latter rain, and fountains and wells and springs of living water ran. Christ offered more than all—the utter final quenching of all torturing thirst. The people sang Isaiah 12:3, "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." He said, "Come to me," and your joy shall be full. To the woman at the well he had said that the water he would give should be in the soul as a well of water springing up into eternal life. but in this connection he promised a much more precious gift.
He that believeth on me. The ὁ πιστεύων in the nominative absolute, followed by another construction, gives great force to the mighty words. This is not the first time that Christ has represented believing under the form of both "coming" and "drinking." The one term seems to cover that part of faith in Christ which unites the soul to him, which sides with him, which utterly abandons self to take his word as true and his power as sufficient; the other term, when applied to participation in his blood, implies receiving into the soul the full solace of his imparted life. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall rush torrents of living water. From his newly given, divinely imparted life shall proceed, as from the innermost depths of his consciousness, illimitable supplies of refreshment and fertility for others as well. Each soul will be a rock smitten in the thirsty land, from which crystal rivers of life-giving grace shall flow. Godet urges, against Meyer, the great sufficiency of this particular illustration of the rock in the wilderness as justifying the reference to the phrase, "as the Scripture hath said," and points especially to Exodus 17:6, "Behold, I will stand before thee there … in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and out of it (וּנּמֶּםִ) water shall come, that the people may drink" (cf. Numbers 20:11; Deuteronomy 8:15; Psalms 114:8; passages read during the feast). He thinks the κοιλίας αὐτοὺ corresponds with "from out of it" of Exodus. Hengstenberg laid long and fantastic emphasis on the Canticles,where the κοιλία of the bride of Jehovah is described. It is certain that the numerous passages in the Old Testament, in which the gift of refreshing water is made the symbol of national mercies and spiritual blessings, do, for the most part, fall short of this remarkable expression. Still, Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 55:1; Isaiah 58:11; Joel 3:18; Zechariah 14:8, all more or less approach the thought; but Ezekiel 47:1-12, where from the altar the living, health giving, mighty river flows for the healing of the nations, is so akin to the saying of the Lord, as soon as we recognize the fact that he is greater than the temple, and that his Church is God's temple, and each body of man a temple of the Holy Ghost, that all real difficulty vanishes. The whole history of the Church is one continuous comment and illustration of the exhaustless fulness of his Word. Just as a soul of man comes and drinks of the water of life, he becomes himself a perennial source of life to others. He supplies not cisterns of stagnant water, but rivers of living water (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16). Chrysostom adds, "One may perceive what is meant, if he will consider the wisdom of Stephen, the tongue of Peter, the vehemence of Paul; how nothing withstood them—not the anger of multitudes, nor the uprising of tyrants, nor plots of devils, nor daily deaths—but, as rivers borne along with loud rushing sound, they went on their way."
This spake he, said the evangelist, concerning the Spirit, which they that believe £ on him were to receive: for the (Holy) Spirit was not yet (given), because Jesus was not yet glorified. This verse has a great weight, as the evangelist's interpretation of the previous words of the Lord, nor can they be put aside. The history of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost, and the mighty gift of the risen and glorified Jesus to those who believed on him, are their abundant justification. If the thirty-eighth verse were not an immense advance upon the promise of the thirty-seventh verse, it would not be easy to show how the words of the first promise could only find fulfilment in a future and as yet unrealized condition. Eternal life is a present gift. Satisfaction of the thirst of the soul was an immediate bestowment of Christ, and had been realized by untold multitudes of those who had been inwardly cleansed by the Spirit, who had come to the waters of life, who had received the Logos, and known that they were sons of God. But the thirty-eighth verse speaks of a new and nobler life flowing to others from belief in Christ. It looks forward to the production of a worldwide blessing conditioned by what was yet to happen. So that we cannot doubt that John saw more deeply into the Lord's words than some of those who have criticized his comment. John, says Weiss, does "not mean to explain the metaphor of the living water, but he intends to prove the truth of Jesus' promise from his own blessed experience." "The (Holy) Spirit was not yet" is, however, a strange and startling statement. The work and Person of the Spirit are spoken of throughout the Old Testament—from Genesis 1:2; Genesis 6:3; Job 26:13; Job 33:4; Psalms 104:30; Psalms 139:7; to Zechariah 4:6. The redeeming and renewing, quickening powers of the Spirit are represented as equipping judges, artists, warriors, and prophets for their work, as sanctifying the individual soul (Psalms 51:11; Ezekiel 3:24, Ezekiel 3:27), and building the temple of God (Haggai 2:5). The prophetic gift is especially referred to the Spirit by St. Paul (1Co 12:10, 1 Corinthians 12:11; 2 Peter 1:21; πᾶσα γραφή is Θεοπνευστος, 2 Timothy 3:16). More than this, our Lord himself is, in the synoptic Gospels, said to be conceived by the Holy Spirit, and his humanity baptized and anointed, empowered and directed throughout by the Spirit, and kept by him in sacred consecration and personal union with the Logos. The union of the Divine and human nature of Christ is maintained by that same Spirit who is the union of the Father and of the Son. In what sense can it be said, "the Holy Spirit was not yet"? Our Lord himself has thrown most light upon this perplexing saying when, on promising the Paraclete, he said, "He shall not speak of [or, 'from'] himself: he will take of mine, and show unto you" (John 16:13, John 16:14); and when he declared (John 16:7-10) that he must himself go to the Father, resume his antenatal glory, carry our nature, dishonoured by man, but now clothed with an infinite majesty, to the very throne of God, as the condition of the gift of the Paraclete. There was, in the constitution of nature, in the order of providence, in the revelations of the prophets, in the Person of the Son of man, that wherewith the blessed Spirit was ever and ceaselessly working; but not until the atonement was made, till God had glorified his Son Jesus, not until the Person of the God-Man was constituted in its infinity of power and perfection of sympathy, were the facts ready, were the truths liberated for the salvation of men, were the streams of living water ready to flow from every heart that received the Divine gift. In comparison with all previous manifestation of the Spirit, this was so wonderful that John could say of all that had gone before—"not yet," "not yet." The Baptist's expression, "I knew him not" (see note, John 1:31), and the scene described in John 20:21, John 20:22, do not contradict this (see note). This is the first time that John mentions the glorification of the Son of mart. Jesus certainly looked at his death, with what followed it, as his glory (see John 12:23, etc.; John 13:31; John 17:5). This evangelist does not, so clearly as St. Paul (says Westcott), discriminate the two stages of "humiliation" and "glory" (cf. Philippians 2:1-30 with 1 John 3:5, 1 John 3:8).
(7) The conflict among the hearers, and divers results of this series of discourses. The Sanhedrin and its officers.
Either "some," or "certain," or "many" £ must be supposed to complete the text of the oldest manuscripts. [Certain] of the multitude therefore, when they heard these words (λόγων, referring to John 7:37, John 7:38), said, This is of a truth the Prophet. In all probability "the Prophet" predicted by Deuteronomy 18:15, whom the Lord God would raise up to them (cf. Acts 3:22; notes, John 1:21 and John 6:14). This was one of the grand features of the Old Testament conception of the Coming One. Whether even the wisest of them had learned to combine all these features of Prophet, Priest, and King, of Shiloh, of the Branch of the Lord, of the Lamb of God, and Prince of Peace, into one individual, is open to doubt. They might believe that their eyes saw much, and yet wait for more (cf. John the Baptist's message from the prison).
Others said, This is the Christ. These must have pressed the argument further. The Lord must have seemed to them to combine the yet more explicit signs, not only of the Prophet that should come into the world, but of the anointed King and Priest—the Christ of their current expectation. But some £ said, Both the Christ come out of Galilee? Here criticism was at once at work upon obvious appearances, but misunderstood facts. Was he not called "Jesus of Nazareth"? His life had been spent there, his ministry in the main restricted to the northern province. These questions give a vivid scene and portray a great emotion. The people are resting on the letter of prophecy (Micah 5:2), where the Messiah, as understood by their own teachers (see Matthew 2:5), was to proceed from Bethlehem; but they overlook the remarkable prediction in Isaiah 9:1, where Galilee is spoken of as the scene of extraordinary illumination.
John 7:42, John 7:43
Hath not the Scripture said, That the Christ cometh of the seed of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was? Therefore a division arose in the multitude because of him. De Wette, Baur, Weisse, Keim, and others have tried to prove from this that the evangelist was ignorant of Christ's birth at Bethlehem. "Hilgenfeld candidly owns that this passage assumes the author's knowledge of this very fact" (Godet). It was unknown to the multitude, who were not at that moment aware how this argument would ultimately be pressed by the first preachers of the gospel. John leaves the objection unanswered, because he knew that all his readers, familiar with the synoptic narrative, would answer it for themselves. As respects the well known belief current in John's later years, and confirmed by the ecclesiastical tradition of Hegesippus (Eusebius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' Ecclesiastes 3:19, Ecclesiastes 3:20), that the relatives of Jesus were summoned, as descendants of David, into the Emperor Domitian's presence, it is clear that Jesus was believed to be the humble heir of David's throne and family, so that his readers would see that he fulfilled not only the prophecy of Micah 5:2, but those of Isaiah 11:1 and Jeremiah 23:5, passages which anticipate the Messiah's descent from David. These were minor points in the great tableau of John's Gospel. He who believed with overwhelming conviction that Jesus was the Logos made flesh, the Son of God, and the risen and glorified Lord, bestowing the Spirit of his own wondrous Person upon his Church, would not trouble much about these mistakes of the people concerning the ancillary details of his earthly career which, when he wrote, had become universally known. It was, however, instructive, half a century later, to see how flimsy, unveracious, and worthless the objections were which passed from lip to lip at this crisis in the life of our Lord. A Greek of the time of Hadrian would be surely very unlikely to have represented this condition of the Jerusalem mind. Now, some of those who believed that he was a great Prophet, the predicted Prophet, yet refused to agree with others who hailed him as the Christ. The division or violent party split (σχίσμα) in the crowd on that "last great day of the feast" may have had persons friendly to him on both sides; but on one side at least there were those who were ready to side with Pharisees and "Jews" and lay hands upon him.
And some of them; i.e. of those who refused to accord him Messianic reception because he had not commenced his ministry at Bethlehem, and had not flaunted his Davidic ancestry. Some of the multitude were ready on their own account to act, or at least to aid or abet the baffled officers of state in their task: would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. The same mysterious power, the same conflicting fear of the result among the enthusiastic crowd then waving their palm branches and shouting "the great Hosanna," nay, the all-wise providence of God, restrained them yet again. "His hour was not yet come."
John 7:45, John 7:46
In John 7:32 we learn that Pharisees and chief priests had sent "officers" to lay hands on him, to seize their opportunity for an arrest; but, sharing somewhat the outburst of enthusiasm which wavered between his claims to be the Prophet or the Christ, and only subsided for a moment on a miserable and unveracious plea, they did not dare to execute the command of their masters. The officers therefore came to the chief priests and Pharisees (the absence of the article τούς before Φαρισαίους shows that they were regarded as one body, who had charged these officers to undertake the duty in which they signally failed); and they (ἐκεῖνοι, the latter) said to them, Why did ye not bring him? Foiled in their intention to carry out the order of the committee of the council, they return empty handed, and to some extent baffled and chagrined. They had fallen into the dominant enthusiasm of the crowd for a moment. They had heard the shouts which hailed him as the great Prophet, nay, as Messiah himself, and their reply, according to the curtailed text, was, Never man so spake.£ It matters little whether the additional clause, "as this Man speaks," was in the original text or not, the idea is the same; and it confirms the supposition to which we have often referred—that John only gives us the great sentences which the Divine Lord made the text of a discourse. An overwhelming impression was produced that the Speaker had a deep secret to disclose, vast treasure to bestow, unlimited power to meet the thirst of man, and even to make those who utterly yield to his influence the fountains of benedictions to others. An awe as of unseen things fell on the officers and the people. They could not resist the sense of benediction which, like some sacred perfume, some supernatural glamour, fell upon them in his reval words. "Never man thus spake." The whole experience is new and wonderful. "These sayings of the Prophet of Nazareth are more than words; they have living powers; they have confounded and disarmed us."
The Pharisees therefore answered them. Evidently the Pharisees were the leading spirits in this assault upon Jesus. The guardians of the orthodoxy of Israel, in the haughty pride of their order, are piqued and angry. Have ye also—the chosen servants of the august council of the nation—been led astray? In Matthew 27:63 these Pharisees speak of the Divine Lord as "this deceiver (ἐκεῖνος ὁ πλάνος)." Are folly and weakness, if not treachery and corruption, at work so near the centre of our authority?
Hath any one of the rulers believed on him, or of the Pharisees? They soon find they have reckoned on the emphatic negative of the query (μή τις;) too soon. There is, however, a touch of weakness in the question. They seem to say, if one of the rulers, one of the Pharisees, had taken a different course, there might be some colour for the pusillanimity of the officers. The question which they put, thus expecting a negative answer, might be answered differently. There were Pharisees who had shown some sympathy with Jesus. Certain steps, moreover, taken by him were not so hopelessly hostile to their own views. In their momentary animosity, blinded by passion, they are ready to ignore this and other facts as well. Some of the higher classes in Galilee had already admitted his claims (see John 4:46; Luke 7:36, etc.). The language of the Pharisees has been a stock objection to every great spiritual movement in its beginning. The writer thus reveals a knowledge of proceedings to which he must have had some exceptional means of access. The obvious familiarity which he suggests with Nicodemus and with friends in the high priest's palace (John 18:15) is the simplest explanation.
But this multitude, which knoweth not the Law, are accursed.£ This is a most contemptuous expression—am-ha-'arez, equivalent to "this scum of the earth," "the unlettered rabble." The Pharisees were accustomed to show sovereign contempt for those who had no admission to their own culture and methods of knowledge. Edersheim and Wunsche quote 'Pes.,' 49, b; 'Baba,' B. 8, b; and 'Chetub.,' 3.6 in proof of the utter inhumanity of their judgments. This language did not endorse a formal excommunication of the multitude—a supposition in its own nature impossible and absurd—but it expressed the brusque and harsh contempt with which the Pharisees then present wished to correct the weak compliance of their own servants. Lange presses the utterance too far. We cannot see in it more than the hitter outburst of their pent-up spite.
John 7:50, John 7:51
They were hardly prepared for what followed; for one of their own order, one of their "rulers," "the teacher of Israel," a chief among the Pharisees, opens his lips to speak to them, and to call for a halt in their rash proceedings. He did not go far, but he directed attention to a fundamental principle of that very "Law" which the Pharisaic party were ignoring. Nicodemus saith to them (he who came to him formerly, although being one of them).£ The parenthesis shows the author's strong recollection of the scene (John 3:1, etc.), when the Lord had opened to his own mind, as well as to Nicodemus, the mystery of the kingdom, and the need of that very Spirit's power to which (John knew when he wrote that) the Lord was referring in his great discourse. Nicodemus had not proclaimed his own discipleship, but he meant to cover and shield the enthusiastic crowd from the sting of the cruel condemnation of this Pharisaic junta. Doth our Law judge a £ man except it have first heard from himself, and have come to know what he doeth?. The Law is here personified in the person of the judge. The process is not followed by this hasty ex parte statement. The Law is traversed by this forgetfulness of the first principle of justice as between man and man. They might have rejoined that they did know the teaching and the work of Jesus. They had been following him by their representatives, and were now witnesses of his extraordinary assumptions, and had evidence enough on which to proceed. The retort which they made is sufficient proof of the defective and passion-blinded method of their own procedure. Moreover, it shows that the prophetic rank assigned to the Lord Jesus was the main question in the mind of Nicodemus and his Pharisaic companions. The rules for the judgment of a prophet were stringent, and no attempt had been made to put these prophetic claims to the test (Deuteronomy 18:19-22). Moreover, they ran off upon an utterly false tack, and were not free from inaccuracy in their solemn appeal to Holy Scripture.
They answered and said to him, Art thou also, as he is and his supporters are, from Galilee? and, therefore, is this criticism of yours on our baffled plan the dictate of provincial pride? They sought to fix a contemptuous country cousin sobriquet upon this distinguished man, instead of replying to his sensible inquiry. Search, and see, that out of Galilee ariseth £ no prophet. The present tense has very nearly the force of the perfect, and denotes the general rule of the Divine providence in the matter. The prophetic order can scarcely be thought to have been recruited from the northern province. Even Hosea had his origin in Samaria. Amos was an inhabitant of Tekoah; twelve miles south of Jerusalem. Nahum the El-koshite cannot be proved to have sprung from the Galilaean town of Elkosh; though it is not impossible, it is at least probable, that Elkosh in Assyria, on the Tigris, two miles north of Mosul and south of Nineveh, was the place whence Nahum and his prophecies issued. Elijah the Tishbite, of the land of Gilead, cannot be claimed as a Gall]scan. The ease is different with reference to Jonah of Gath-Hepher, of the tribe of Zebulon (2 Kings 14:25), who, as a solitary and by no means morally impressive character, might almost as an exception prove the truth of the general statement. The historical error is far from difficult to account for in the stress of the discontent which these Pharisees were now manifesting towards everything Galilaean. Godet, on the authority of ἀγήγερται, being the text, would have it that "there has not now arisen in the Person of Jesus a Prophet." Baumlein presses this still further, by making the "prophet" mean "the Messiah." There is no reasonable ground for charging on these Pharisees "an incredible ignorance or incomprehensible misunderstanding." Such a charge is more like one of the incomprehensible misunderstandings of the modern critical school whenever a chance opens of assailing the authenticity of the Fourth Gospel.
They went every man to his own house. This clause belongs to the pericope of the woman taken in adultery, and is encumbered with the textual and other difficulties involved in that paragraph. The words apply most imperfectly to the preceding narrative, which terminates with a private conversation between Nicodemus and other members of the Sanhedrin, and, at the same time, rather suggest the scattering of the crowd or the return of the pilgrims to Galilee, both of which form a very improbable consequence of John 7:52.
Our Lord's stay in Galilee.
Notwithstanding the discouragements of the last few days, he continued to reside in Galilee. "And after these things Jesus continued to abide in Galilee: for he would not abide in Judaea, because the Jews sought to kill him."
I. HE TOOK NEEDFUL PRECAUTION TO SAVE HIS LIFE.
1. He could have put forth miraculous power for its preservation, but he practised that economy of miracle which is so manifest throughout his whole ministry.
2. He refused to expose himself to premature risk at the hands of his Judaean enemies. They "sought to kill him." He acted upon the counsel he gave to his disciples, that when persecuted in one city they should flee to another. He would not decline risk when his hour was come, but meanwhile he used all prudence to avert danger.
II. HIS CONTINUED MINISTRY IN GALILEE.
1. Though discouraged by the defection of so many disciples, he continues to minister in Galilee.
2. His life was secure among the Galilaeans. The difference between the Galilaeans and the Jews was that, while the Jews were actively hostile, the Galilaeans were merely indifferent.
The appeal to Jesus on the part of his unbelieving brothers.
I. THE OCCASION OF THIS APPEAL. "But the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand."
1. It was the last and greatest of the three yearly feasts, and occurred in our month of October.
2. It was intended at once to commemorate the forty years' wandering in the wilderness, and also to celebrate the ingathering of the yearly harvest.
3. The pilgrims, as well as the inhabitants of Jerusalem, left their houses for seven days to dwell in tents made of boughs. The feast was at once a solemn and a happy time.
II. THE APPEAL OF THE BROTHERS. "Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest."
1. Who were these brothers? They are not disciples, for they expressly exclude themselves from this class by their own words (John 7:3). The evangelist says expressly (John 7:5)they were not believers, and Jesus implies by his answer that they are not, for the hatred of the world could not touch them (John 7:7). The head of the brethren was James, afterwards chief pastor at Jerusalem.
2. It is this unbelieving attitude that explains their appeal. "For neither did his brethren believe in him."
(1) They are, no doubt, afterwards found identified with the cause of Christ (Acts 1:14), probably drawn to him by our Lord's appearance after his resurrection to James (1 Corinthians 15:7).
(2) The appeal of the brethren was not dictated either
(a) by the unnatural desire to see him sacrificed to the fury of his enemies,
(b) nor by an eagerness to precipitate events in his own honour,
(c) but rather by their anxiety to put an end to the equivocal position in which he stood in their eyes.
(α) They had known him so familiarly from childhood that his claims were hard to understand.
(β) They thought that he ought to submit his claims to Messiahship to those most competent to judge of their value. "For no man doeth anything in secret"—Galilee was an obscure corner of the land, far from the centre of ecclesiastical interest—"himself seeking to be famous. If thou doest these things, show thyself to the world."
(γ) The capital was the appropriate place for the recognition of his mission, and the approaching feast presented a favourable opportunity for making it known to Jews from all parts of the world.
III. OUR LORD'S ANSWER TO THE APPEAL.
1. His time was not yet come. "My time is not yet come."
(1) This refers to the period of his final manifestation, only to end in his death. If he were to comply with the request of his brothers, he would only anticipate that period; but his time for leaving the world was not yet come.
(2) Our Lord regards the events of life as divinely ordered in point of time. "Our times are in thy hand."
(3) He marks the necessary contrast between his own position and that of his brothers. "But your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that its works are evil."
(a) There was nothing discordant between the views of the brethren and the views of the world. There was a moral sympathy between them that made it impossible his brothers should risk anything by going to the feast.
(b) The world's hatred to Christ had its origin in his faithful testimony against its evil. He had roused its antagonism by his rebukes of Pharisaic hypocrisy and wickedness. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world; and men have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." The works were evil,
(α) because they were done, not according to Divine command, but according to the tradition of the elders;
(β) because they were done from a wrong principle, not from faith and love;
(γ) because they were done with a wrong motive, not the glory of God, but "to be seen of men."
2. He commands his brothers to go up to the feast. "Go ye up unto this feast: for me, I go not up to this feast, because my time is not yet fully come."
(1) He urges his brethren to go up, as it was a matter of necessary Jewish observance.
(2) He signifies certainly that he will not accompany them, like one going to the feast. And he does not go up with his brethren.
(3) His going up will be as a "prophet" (verse 14) appearing suddenly in the temple.
(4) The emphasis that he lays on "this feast" implies that he is not going up in the sense which the proposal of his brethren might suggest—as if his Messianic entry into Jerusalem were to occur at the Feast of Tabernacles, and not at the Feast of the Passover. It was true, in any case, that his "time was not yet fully come," not in allusion to the two or three days' interval between their going and his coming, but to the time of his death.
3. Our Lord's secret departure for Jerusalem. "When he had said these words unto them, he abode in Galilee. But when his brethren were gone up to the feast, then went he also up." The passage does not say that he went up to the feast at all. Contrast the privacy of this journey with the publicity of his solemn final entry into Jerusalem (John 12:12).
Inquiries and speculations concerning Christ.
His entry was so private as to be almost unnoticed.
I. THE ANXIETY OF THE HOSTILE JEWS TO DISCOVER HIM. "Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?"
1. The question may have beer, asked partly through curiosity and Tartly from hostility, for it implies that a plot already existed for his destruction.
2. Mark the contemptuous form of the question. "Where is he?" His name is not mentioned, as if to say, "Where is this fellow?" But the very form of the question implies that he was widely known, and present to all minds at Jerusalem.
II. THE DIVERGENCE OF OPINION CONCERNING HIM AMONG THE WORSHIPPERS AT THE FEAST. "And there was much murmuring among the multitudes concerning him." As if men were afraid to speak out their inward thoughts. Mark the contrast here as elsewhere between those who are drawn to him and those who are repelled from him.
1. Mark the form of the favourable judgment upon him. "Some said, He is a good Man." They tested his principles by his deeds. As one who "went about every day doing good," he appeared as the Author of deeds that spoke of goodness and kindness and love.
2. Mark the form of the unfavourable judgment upon him. "Others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people." He rejected Moses' Law, despised the sabbath, made himself equal with God. This judgment sets at nought the argument from Christ's personal life. It is a judgment against the facts.
3. Mark the pressure of official opinion upon the whole people. "Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews."
(1) Authority had not yet formally determined the question of Christ's claims.
(2) The fear of man, "that bringeth a snare," has a strong hold upon people with undecided convictions.
Justification of his doctrine.
Jesus appeared suddenly in the temple, and began at once to instruct the people.
I. ASTONISHMENT OF THE JEWS AT HIS TEACHING. "And the Jews were astonished, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?"
1. They were astonished at the manner of his teaching. "He spake as never man spake;" he "spake as One having authority, and not as the scribes;" thus "the common people heard him gladly." These passages give an idea of the manner and effect of his teaching.
2. They were astonished at the matter of his teaching. He had not, they thought, been trained in any rabbinic school, yet he seemed to understand the literature of his countrymen—which was essentially theological—quite as well as their approved religious guides.
II. OUR LORD'S EXPLANATION OF HIS TEACHING. "My teaching is not mine, but his that sent me."
1. His doctrine was not self-originated, though he had studied in no school of the rabbis.
2. It was not human; for it was from the Source of all truth, God himself.
3. He claims to be merely the Messenger of his Father, He is the Word of God, who reveals the Father's mind to men.
III. THE METHOD OF VERIFYING THE DOCTRINE. "If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." There is a twofold method of verification—one internal, the other external.
1. The internal verification.
(1) It springs from the disposition or desire to do the will of God.
(a) The will of God represents all that is included in doctrine and duty, but it specifically regards man's salvation. "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification'' (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
(b) It is not deed, but will, that holds the primary place in Christian life. The will represents the motive power; the deed is but the outcome of the will. Yet they are inseparably linked in the designs of grace as well as in the experience of the saints—"for it is God that worketh in you, to will and to do of his good pleasure."
(2) The will to do the Divine will is the only condition of Christian insight. We cannot understand a sensation or a feeling in another man unless we have the radical element of that feeling or sensation in ourselves. Even the heathen Aristotle says, "The mind's eye is not capable of rightly judging without moral virtue." It follows from this fact that
(a) unbelief is more the fault of the heart than of the intellect. Therefore Scripture speaks expressively "of the evil heart of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:12).
(b) Religion is essentially a matter of life as well as of thought. Therefore the Jews could not understand the will of God concerning the Messiah, for they were altogether out of sympathy with it.
(c) Faith is, therefore, not the result of a logical operation. It is "the gift of God;" it is "given to us to believe."
(3) The man who is in sympathy with God's will is, therefore, in a position to determine experimentally whether the doctrine of Christ is of God, or whether he is an impostor uttering merely human teaching.
2. The external verification. "He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh the glory of him that sent him, the same is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him." This points to the character of him who delivers the doctrine.
(1) The false teacher seeks the praise of men for his own exaltation. The scribes and the Pharisees exulted in their traditions and their glosses and their interpretations of the Bible.
(2) The true teacher seeks the glory of God, which is the one object of the Bible from beginning to end. This supreme aim attests at once
(a) the truth of the teacher in the sphere of thought, and
(b) his righteousness in the sphere of action. Thus Jesus can be "no deceiver of the people." Therefore his doctrine is to be received.
Justification of his conduct.
The allusion to unrighteousness is the point of transition from Christ's teaching to his conduct.
I. HE IS CHARGED BY THE JEWS WITH BREAKING THE SABBATH LAW.
1. He had healed the impotent man at a former visit to Jerusalem on the sabbath day. "I have done one work, and ye all marvel."
2. The Jews would have stoned him as a transgressor for the act. "Why do ye seek to kill me?" He knows the designs of the rulers, though the multitude may not have suspected them, and therefore say, "Thou hast a devil: who seeketh to kill thee?" But Jesus meekly passes over the reproach without a reply.
II. HE RETORTS UPON THE JEWS EXACTLY THE SAME CHARGE. "Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law?" He refers to the sabbath law, and shows that it allowed circumcision to be performed on the sabbath. "For this cause hath Moses given you circumcision (not that it is of Moses, but of the fathers); and on the sabbath ye circumcise a man."
1. They ought not, therefore, to condemn in Jesus what they approved in Moses; for the healing of the impotent man was as necessary as the circumcision of a child on the sabbath.
2. The principle he lays down derives its force from the fact that "the sabbath was made for man." Man is more than the sabbath.
3. The fairness of Christ's argument. "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment." The argumentum ad hominem is
(1) effective as closing the mouth of an objector,
(2) and ought to prepare the way for an impartial judgment on the merits.
The true origin of our Lord.
The opportunity again arises of asserting his Divine origin.
I. THE PERPLEXITY OF THE JERUSALEM JEWS RESPECTING THE POLICY AND VIEWS OF THEIR RULERS. "Then said some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Is not this he whom they seek to kill? And, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing to him."
1. The question is put, not by the Jews from foreign lands, who were attending the feast, but by Jews of the city, who understood the various phases of change in the temper and attitude of the rulers toward Christ.
2. They were aware of the plot formed at the Passover before the last to kill him.
3. They were puzzled to account for the passiveness of the religious guides of the nation, in presence of provocations so stinging as these supplied by our Lord's rebukes. They are almost disposed to believe that the rulers recognize Jesus as the Messiah. "Do the rulers indeed perceive that he is the Christ?"
4. Their own obstinate resistance to such a view. "Howbeit, we know this man whence he is: but the Christ, when he comes, no one will know whence he is." They professed to know the parentage and family of Jesus, identifying them with Galilee; but they held that the origin of the Messiah would be utterly unknown. He would appear suddenly as an adult, like another Melehizedek, "without father, without mother." The Scriptures plainly pointed out the tribe, the family, the lineage, the place of the Messiah's birth. Yet they said, "When Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is." The nature of their ignorance is soon made manifest.
II. OUR LORD'S EXPLANATION OF THE JEWS' PERPLEXITY. "Ye both know me, and know whence I am."
1. He asserts that they knew him as a man.
2. But asserts at once that they did not recognize his Divine nature.
(1) They did not acknowledge his essential Sonship. "But I know him: for I am from him"—implying that his knowledge of his Father arose from his community of nature with him.
(2) They did not acknowledge his Divine mission. "He hath sent me."
(3) They were not only ignorant of the Son, but also of the Father. "He that sent me is true, whom ye know not."
(a) It was a severe thing to charge the Jews with ignorance of that God whose worship was their boast.
(b) The truth of the Father was staked upon the Messianic mission of the Son. Therefore, to deny Christ was to exclude the Father from the range of their knowledge.
The effect of our Lord's teaching on the rulers and on the multitude.
His claim to be sent from God roused the anger of the rulers.
I. THE ACTION OF THE RULERS. "Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands upon him, because his hour was not yet come."
1. Their efforts are for the present limited to plots against his life. The faithful witness to the truth is always exposed to the risk of persecution by a world with no love for the truth.
2. Their efforts are restrained by a Divine hand which can "restrain the wrath of men." "His time was not yet come."
(1) There is an allotted time for each individual life. God has appointed the days of man, and fixed the bounds that he cannot pass. The time of Christ's death was not only foreseen but foreordained.
(2) The second causes through which the Lord baffled for the time the plots of the rulers were, probably, the divisions of opinion in the multitude, the growing popularity of Jesus, and, just as probably, the majesty of his presence and his speech.
II. THE RESPONSE OF THE MULTITUDE TO OUR LORD'S TEACHING. "And many of the multitude believed on him, and said, When the Christ cometh, will be do more miracles than these which this Man did?"
1. The Jews here referred to were those from abroad, as distinguished from the Jews of the city, who were intensely opposed to Christ.
2. They showed a progressive faith. Lately they conceded that he was "a good Man" (John 7:12). Now they admit his Messiahship.
3. Their faith, genuine as it is, has been largely due to his miraculous power. The tradition was that the Messiah would possess such a power, and these Jews believe that Christ had exhibited it on a scale commensurate with the Messianic expectations of the nation.
III. SUDDEN EFFECT OF THIS CHANGE OF OPINION UPON THE POLICY OF THE AUTHORITIES. "The Pharisees heard the multitude murmuring these things concerning him; and the Pharisees and chief priests sent officers to take him."
1. They resolved to strike a blow at once, so as to save their religious hold upon the people. They had no scruple about destroying Christ, for they believed him guilty of blasphemy.
2. The divisions of religious life among the Jews themselves were in abeyance under the influence of the common danger. The Pharisees acted in harmony with the chief priests, who were Sadducees.
IV. THEIR ACTION SUGGESTS TO OUR LORD THE IDEA OF HIS COMING DEATH. "Jesus therefore said unto them, Yet a little while I am with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come."
1. He invites the Jews to profit by the time, now narrowed to six months, that he would be with them.
2. The fatal effect of disregarding his timely warning.
(1) He would soon be beyond the reach of their malice, for he would "go to him that sent him," Jesus still emphasizes his death as a return to heaven and to his former glory with the Father.
(2) They would hereafter seek him in their impotent distress, but they would not find him. Their future history was to be marked by a constant series of disappointed expectations.
3. Their strange misapprehension of his words.
(1) They see no trace of a reference to his death or to his return to heaven.
(2) They see merely an allusion to some transference of his activities beyond the bounds of Palestine to the Jews of the Dispersion, and through them ultimately to the Gentiles. "Will he go unto the dispersed among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks?"
(a) This was an involuntary prophecy like that of Caiaphas.
(b) The Jews of the Dispersion, scattered in Babylonia, Egypt, and Syria, were the most interesting section of the Jews, the links to connect the old with the new revelation, and in their synagogues the apostles were privileged to make Jesus known as the Messiah.
(c) It is a significant fact that this unconscious prophecy should be recorded in the Greek language by a native of Palestine, dwelling at the time in a Gentile city.
The address of Jesus.
He makes no reply to Jewish objection.
I. OCCASION OF THIS ADDRESS. "The last and great day of the feast."
1. It was the eighth day, and was kept as a sabbath.
2. It was designed to commemorate the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan.
3. It was usual on this day for the people to go, under the guidance of the priest, to the fountain of Siloam, where a pitcher was filled with water, and brought back with joy to the temple. This usage probably suggested the figure used by our Lord in his address.
II. CHRIST OFFERS THE ONLY SATISFACTION THAT CAN MEET THE SPIRITUAL WANTS OF MAN. "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink"
1. The language implies the sense of spiritual need.
(1) There is in man a thirst for righteousness.
(2) There is a thirst for peace.
(3) There is a thirst for the reconciliation of difficulties.
2. The language implies float Christ is himself the Rock in the wilderness, out of which the waters of salvation flow. (1 Corinthians 10:4.)
(1) This water was emblematic of future blessing in the ancient prophets. (Ezekiel 47:1, Ezekiel 47:12). He is the Fountain of gardens, the Well of living waters, "as rivers of water in a dry place" to thirsty souls. There is fulness of grace in Christ; it flows incessantly into the hearts of his people; they can drink of it till their souls are as a watered garden.
(2) Mark how the Lord transfers to himself figure after figure of Old Testament times—the rock, the manna, the brazen serpent, the fiery pillar.
3. It implies that the thirst can only be relieved by the actual drinking of the living water. Our Lord refers directly to faith.
III. THE BELIEVER HIMSELF IS TRANSFORMED INTO A ROCK. "He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
1. We have here the refreshing vigour of faith.
2. The reception of blessing from Christ leads to its fuller distribution of believer's to all within their influence. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."
IV. THE EXPLANATION OF THE NEW VIGOUR AND INFLUENCE OF THE BELIEVER. "But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified." The reference is to the approaching Pentecost.
1. The language does not imply that the Spirit had not yet existed in believers, for Old Testament saints were raved in the same manner as New Testament saints. It is the Spirit's office in all dispensations alike to apply the redemption of Christ to believers.
2. It implies that the Spirit was to come, not for mere sanctifying work, but as the fountain of gifts to the Church. This was the peculiarity of the Pentecostal gifts. This was the origin of the "unction" of believers (1 John 2:20).
3. The gift of the Spirit was essentially connected with the glorification of Christ. "Because that Jesus was not yet glorified." Jesus must first die, rise again, and ascend to heaven before the Holy Ghost would descend upon the Church. This is the first allusion to Christ's glorification.
Effect of this address upon the multitude.
It made a great impression.
I. IT DEVELOPED DIFFERENCES OF OPINION. "Many then of the multitude, who had heard this discourse, said, Truly this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ."
1. A section of the multitude was favorable to Christ's Messianic claims—
(1) one part holding that he was the prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18), and therefore, practically, the Messiah, or either Elijah or Jeremiah, who was to be a precursor of the Messiah;
(2) another part holding that he was really the Messiah.
2. A section—perhaps the larger part—held that he could not be the Messiah, because he was born in Galilee. "Doth the Christ, then, come out of Galilee?"
(1) They were ignorant of the true place of his birth;
(2) yet they were acquainted with the Scripture that spoke of Bethlehem as the scene of the Messiah's birth. "Hath not the Scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?" The whole incident shows
(a) that they did not take pains to inquire concerning the real birthplace of Jesus;
(b) that divisions of opinion concerning Christ began at a very early period, and still continue. "What think ye of Christ?" is still the question which tests the Christian attitude of men and Churches.
II. THE DIFFERENCES OF OPINION PREVENTED THE IMMEDIATE ARREST OF JESUS, "And some of them desired to take him; but no man laid hands on him."
1. The unbelieving Jews would have gladly arrested Jesus, and brought him before the Sanhedrin on a charge of blasphemy.
2. Their hands were restrained by Divine Providence, mainly through the risks of a collision with those Jews who were inclined to favour Christ's claims.
The meeting of the Sanhedrin.
The position of the official guides of the people was becoming every hour more gravely compromised by the movement in favour of Jesus.
I. THE EXTRAORDINARY REPORT OF THE OFFICERS TO THE SANHEDRIN. "Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this Man."
1. This report was delivered on the holy sabbath. The exigency of the moment may have seemed to justify the Sanhedrin in sitting on that day.
2. The leaders' indignant question marks their disappointment that Jesus is not a prisoner in their hands.
3. The officers' answer is singularly frank and decisive.
(1) They use no evasions to excuse themselves, such as that they could not find Jesus, or that they feared the multitude.
(2) They proclaim without fear or misgiving the profound impression made upon themselves by our Lord's address. "Never man spake like this Man"—
(a) with such authority;
(b) with such a grasp of Divine truth;
(c) with such practical force and persuasiveness;
(d) with such a disregard for the traditional ideas of the Jewish teachers.
II. THE CONTEMPTUOUS REJOINDER OF THE PHARISEES. "Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this multitude that knoweth not the Law is cursed."
1. The evil was growing fast when their very officers, despatched to execute the law, returned with such a tribute to the power of Jesus.
2. The Pharisees see in the words of their officers the evidences of nothing but deception. "Are ye also deceived?" They had already stigmatized Jesus as one who "deceiveth the people." They were all the while ignorant of the deception which shut their own eyes to the truth.
(1) They "trusted in themselves that they were righteous."
(2) They thought they were something when they were nothing.
(3) They followed the traditions and commandments of men, which could only lead them into deeper deception. They were deceived, yet they knew it not.
3. They contrast their own hardy unbelief with the too-ready faith of the multitude.
(1) The Pharisees had not believed in him, except Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathaea, and a few female disciples; but the discipleship in these cases was rather secret.
(2) The multitude seemed ready to accept Jesus.
(a) The Pharisees regard them as "ignorant of the Law." Whose fault was that? Was it not the fault of the rulers themselves?
(b) They regard them as "cursed." The multitude was never so near to blessing.
III. THE EFFORT MADE ON CHRIST'S BEHALF BY ONE OF HIS SECRET DISCIPLES. "Nicodemus saith unto them, Doth our Law then judge a man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?"
1. Nicodemus appears first in history as a secret inquirer. "He that came to him by night, being one of them."
2. It is a sign of progress that he makes an effort, however indirect, to turn aside the blow aimed at Jesus.
(1) He might have taken a bolder course and professed his faith openly,
(2) Yet his cautious strategy was effective.
(3) It does not at the same time exempt him from suspicion of secret sympathy with Galilaean views. "Art thou, then, also of Galilee?"
3. The delusion of the Sanhedrin respecting the real origin of Jesus. "Search, and look: for no prophet has arisen from Galilee."
(1) Jesus was a Prophet of Judaea, not of Galilee.
(2) Mark the contempt expressed for Galilee. It was in their eyes "the refuse of the theocracy." Were they right in saying that no prophets had risen in Galilee? Elijah was of Gilead; Nahum, of Elkosh, a place unknown; and Hoses, of Samaria; and if Jonah is an exception, their passion might have led them to disregard the circumstance in the thought that Judaea was essentially the home of the prophets.
4. The danger to Jesus was averted. "And every man went to his own house." The Sanhedrin broke up without making any fresh effort to check the progress of Jesus.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Brethren, but not believers.
In recording this fact the evangelist shows his usual candour. The fact that some of those who were nearest akin to Jesus withheld from him their faith is at first sight surprising. It must have been very distressing to the human heart of our Lord to meet with such unbelief; and it must have been painful, and to some extent discouraging, to his avowed and ardent disciples. Yet the fact is so suggestive and instructive that, upon reflection, we cannot wonder that it was thus put upon record.
I. IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE FAMILIAR WITH CHRIST, HIS DOCTRINE, AND GOSPEL, AND YET NOT TO BELIEVE ON HIM. In reading the gospel narrative, we meet with instances of unbelief which do not surprise us, which seem easily accounted for. There were many who did not really know Christ, who simply took other people's judgment concerning him, or acted upon the prejudices natural to ignorance. We scarcely wonder that the selfish, unscrupulous, unspiritual rulers and scribes at Jerusalem rejected Christ's claims, and acted towards him with hostility; or that the Roman procurator Pilate misunderstood him, and finally abandoned him to his foes. But we are shocked when we learn that the very brethren of Jesus wanted faith—at all events, thorough faith—in Jesus. They were his kin; they had known him for many years; they must have enjoyed many opportunities of studying his character and verifying his claims. Yet they withheld their faith, at least for a time. This fact is not unparalleled. In condemning the brethren of Jesus, the hearer of the gospel may possibly be condemning himself. In our own day, in the very heart of Christian society, there may be found many who are very familiar with the gospel, who are frequent readers and hearers of the Word, who have seen in their nearest friends very favourable representatives of the Christian character, who yet have little interest, and no faith, in Christ himself.
II. EXPLANATIONS OF THIS REJECTION OF CHRIST, CONSISTENT WITH FAMILIARITY WITH HIM MAY BE DISCOVERED IN HUMAN NATURE AND EXPERIENCE.
1. There are cases in which familiarity itself seems adverse to faith. A striking illustration of the action of this principle is recorded by St. Luke. The Nazarenes knew Jesus well; he had been brought up among them, had dwelt in their town; everything they had known of him must have been favourable. "Familiarity," says the proverb, "breeds contempt;" and in vulgar natures this is true. Accordingly, the people of Nazareth, when the Divine Prophet visited them, were not only incredulous, they were hostile. In his own city he had no honour. It seems to have been the same with our Lord's kindred; it was hard for them to believe that one brought up among them, and in circumstances resembling their own, could be so far above them, in true rank and in spiritual authority, as Jesus claimed to be. To how many has the name of Jesus been familiar from childhood, without awakening sentiments of reverence and faith! When some such persons have the dignity and the power and preciousness of Jesus brought in some way with unusual vividness before their minds, it may be noticed that resentment is aroused rather than faith. Christ has occupied a familiar place in their stock of knowledge; but perhaps on that very account they are indisposed to see in him what they have never seen before.
2. There are cases in which worldliness and sluggishness of spirit are a barrier to faith in Christ. Such persons may be, through birth and association, almost as brethren to the Lord; yet their habits of mind prevent them from rousing themselves even to consider his claims. They live at a low level, and they hate everything that would raise them to a higher. They resist any demand upon admiration or faith. They may be indisposed to believe in anyone or in anything; how much mere in a Being so glorious, in doctrines so inspiring, as Christianity presents!
3. There are cases in which example explains indifference to the Saviour. No doubt our Lord's kinsmen ought to have been influenced by the better example of the mother and the disciples of Jesus. But they appear to have been more affected by the negligence and unbelief of others. It is observable that they came to believe at a later period—perhaps, under the influence of the growing numbers of the Lord's adherents. Certain it is, that many of the hearers of the gospel have no better reason to give for their incredulity than the faithlessness of others, especially of those with whom they most associate, and from whom they unconsciously take their moral tone. A "reason" this is not, but it is a sufficient explanation to those acquainted with human nature.
III. VALUABLE PRACTICAL LESSONS MAY BE LEARNED FROM THE UNBELIEF OF CHRIST'S BRETHREN. Those especially who have long enjoyed many religious advantages may gain profit from this record, which contains suggestions of very serious admonition.
1. It is foolish and wrong to rest in outward privileges; for these of themselves, if not used aright, are of no avail. If it served no valuable end for these relatives of Jesus to be so near him in blood, we shall act foolishly if we rest in our association with Christ's Church.
2. It is important to penetrate through superficial acquaintance with Christ to real spiritual knowledge of him. It is well to have an acquaintance with the facts and doctrines of Christianity. But these are merely means to a higher end, to faith and fellowship, assimilation and devotion.
3. Not to believe in Christ is to reject him in all his glorious offices. He came to earth to be a Prophet, a Priest, and a King. To refuse our faith to him in these several offices, is to forfeit the spiritual, the priceless blessings which it is his heart's desire to confer upon the children of men.—T.
Christ's witness against sin.
The "world," which is here affirmed by Jesus to have hated him, is not to be distinguished from the "Church," if that expression may be applied to those who professed to receive the revelation and to do the will of God. For amongst our Lord's enemies, the foremost were certainly the men who were at the head of the theocracy, and whose sins Jesus most severely censured. From this significant fact, people professedly religious, and even people who sincerely believe themselves to be religious, may take warning, and may learn not to trust in their outward religiousness, as if that in itself sufficed to secure them against identification with the sinful world.
I. THE WAYS IN WHICH THE LORD JESUS WITNESSED AGAINST THE WORLD'S EVIL.
1. By his language. Meek and gracious as he was towards such sinners as were penitent, Jesus was unsparing in his denunciations of hardened and hypocritical offenders against the Law of God. Against falsehood, covetousness, cruelty, and licentiousness, the Son of man raised his voice in indignant protest and censure. And against such sins, when cloaked by a religious profession, he was severe with a severity unexampled even in Scripture.
2. By his conduct. In many cases there is no protest against evil so effective as an upright and holy life. This protest was ever offered by our Lord; it was natural and habitual to him. The calm dignity with which our Lord lived amidst formalists and dissemblers could not be unnoticed either by friends or foes, and by his foes it was felt as a rebuke and a condemnation.
II. THE HATRED WHICH OUR LORD'S WITNESS AGAINST THE WORLD'S EVIL AROUSED AGAINST HIM.
1. This hatred evinced a moral warfare within human nature. On the one hand, the conscience of sinners concurred in the rebukes uttered by the holy Saviour; on the other hand, their selfishness and pride would not submit to these rebukes. Thus there arose, as in such circumstances there ever arises, an inner conflict. And in order to repress the voice of conscience, sinners often hardened themselves against its expostulations by giving themselves more resolutely over into the power of evil.
2. This hatred led to calumny and slander against the holy Christ. Only thus can we account for the absurd and wicked and scandalous language used concerning Jesus. His enemies called him a sinner, a deceiver, and declared that he was possessed by a demon, by Beelzebub. If he had left their sins unrebuked, and had humoured their prejudices, he might have secured the adherence and support of the Jewish leaders; but the upright course he took in dealing with them brought down upon him their malice and their hatred.
3. This hatred was the motive of the plot which issued in the apprehension and death of Jesus. It appears that the hostility of the priests and rulers against Jesus of Nazareth was excited by his pure and spiritual teaching, which was felt to be a rebuke to their formality and hypocrisy, and by his denunciations of their ambition and covetousness. His enemies felt that there was a likelihood of his undermining their influence over the common people. This led to the resolution to compass his death by means however foul.
III. THE WORLD'S HATRED BECAME THUS THE OCCASION OF THE EVENT WHICH WROUGHT THE WORLD'S DELIVERANCE FROM ITS SIN. The wisdom of God is often manifested in the bringing of good out of evil. The most stupendous and glorious instance of this wisdom was afforded in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. He testified against the world's evil; the hatred of the world was thus inflamed against him; this hatred led to the apprehension, the condemnation, and the death of the Holy One and Just; and his death was God's method of vanquishing the world's sin, and of saving mankind from spiritual destruction and ruin.—T.
A good will the condition of spiritual discernment.
Intellectual men are apt to set too high a value upon the exercise of the intellect. And in this error they are often confirmed by the notions of the ignorant and uninstructed, who look up with wonder to the learned and the mentally acute, and are willing to think such prodigies of knowledge must be assured possessors of all good things. But the fact is, that the highest of all possessions is to be attained, not by the scholarship or the ability which men often overestimate, but by the trusting heart and the obedient and submissive will. Nowhere is this great spiritual lesson more plainly and effectively inculcated than in this passage.
I. THE SOURCE OF CHRIST'S DOCTRINE. This was a mystery to many of the Jews, who knew that Jesus was born in a lowly station, and that he had not been trained in the schools of rabbinical learning, and who could not understand how he could teach with such justice, profundity, and beauty. With this difficulty Jesus here deals.
1. The doctrine of Jesus is asserted by himself to be derived. He repudiated the notion that he spake from himself, i.e. from the experience or originality of a merely human mind.
2. The doctrine of Jesus is asserted by himself to be Divine. It was neither his own, nor that of a school of learning, nor was it a mere amplification of the sayings of the ancient legislator and the ancient prophets. Jesus ever claimed to have come from God, and to have acted and spoken with the authority of God. This, however, was his assertion; how were his hearers to verify it?
II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST'S DOCTRINE. There were many who listened to the discourses and conversations of the great Teacher, who were familiar with his language, but who were unacquainted with, and indifferent to, the spiritual meaning and power of which that language was, to sympathetic souls, the vehicle. How can this meaning and power be known?
1. There must be a will in harmony with God's will. Man is not merely an intellectual being; he is emotional and practical. And the will is the man. It is the habitual purposes which determine the man's character. Many persona have insight into truth, and even admiration of truth, whose moral life is nevertheless evil, because they abandon themselves to be the sport of every fleeting passion. The habitual indulgence of passion, pride, and worldliness blinds the spiritual vision, so that the highest good becomes indiscernible. And thus three who are not without natural gifts of intelligence become incapable of judging the highest type of character or of doctrine. On the other hand, the cultivation of a will in harmony with the Divine will is the means of purifying the spiritual vision. When the good is habitually chosen, the true comes to be habitually sought and prized.
2. The will thus in harmony with God's will recognizes the Divine origin of Christ's teaching. Both by reason of his acquaintance with the mind of God, and by his sympathy with the Law and the truth of God, the devout and obedient man is fitted to pronounce upon the origin of the Lord's teaching. "He that is spiritual judgeth all things;" he has "the mind of Christ." Thus it is, as our Lord acknowledged with gratitude, that things hidden from the wise and prudent are often revealed unto babes. His own apostles were a living illustration of this law. And every age furnishes examples of clever men, and even learned men, who have misunderstood and misrepresented Christ's teaching, because they have not been in sympathy with the righteous and holy will of the Eternal; whilst every age furnishes also examples of simple and unlettered men who, because lovers of goodness, have displayed a special discernment of mind in apprehending, and even in teaching, Christian doctrine. In this, as in other respects, it is the childlike nature that enters the kingdom of heaven.—T.
The thirsting invited to the Fountain of living waters.
It was our Lord's wont to make use of the most familiar objects, the most ordinary events, the most customary practices, in order to illustrate and to enforce spiritual truth. To set forth man's need of teaching, of heavenly grace, of salvation, Christ spoke of hunger and of thirst, of bread and of water. On the occasion of the Feast of Tabernacles, there was performed a ceremony which may have immediately suggested the language of the text. This was the drawing of water from the Pool of Siloam, which was borne in procession to the temple, and poured out as a sacred libation before the Lord. It was probably upon the suggestion of this ceremony that our Lord uttered the memorable and encouraging words of the text.
I. THE THIRST OF THE HUMAN SOUL. This thirst is deep seated in the nature of man. It manifests itself in the many forms of restless activity by which men seek to satisfy their aspirations. The powerlessness of the world to quench this thirst is an indication of the Divine origin of the soul. He who drinks at a cistern will find that the cistern will run dry. He who quaffs the water of a pool may find the water foul and turbid. Pie who tries to quench his thirst by draughts from the sea will learn that, so far from assuaging, these salt waters only increase the thirst.
"The frail vessel thou hast made,
No hands but thine can fill;
For the waters of this world have failed,
And I am thirsty still."
II. THE SATISFYING GIFTS OF GOD'S HOLY SPIRIT. That which the world cannot do, the Spirit of God can do; he can fill the created nature with peace, purity, truth, and power. The river of God's love flows on forever; it is inexhaustible. "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." "Blessed are they that … thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."
III. THE INVITATION AND PROMISE OF JESUS.
1. He claims himself to dispense the satisfying gifts of the Spirit. He is the Rock in the wilderness, from which flows the stream of living water. Thus he said, "Let him come unto me;" and at an earlier period of his ministry, "I would have given thee living water."
2. The terms upon which this blessing is conferred are such as are most encouraging to the hearer of the gospel. Faith is required from the thirsting applicant. This is evidently intended by the use of the words "come" and "drink." The blessing must be appropriated. And yet the satisfying provision is offered freely; it is not bought, but given. "Drink of the water of life freely."—T.
In the Jewish dispensation no unimportant place was filled by the order of men known as seers or prophets. From Samuel to Malachi, they were the spiritual teachers and guides of Israel. The Lord Christ gathered up in his own Person and ministry the significance and power of the prophetic office.
I. CHRIST'S PROPHETIC DESIGNATION. He was known as a Prophet by those who saw in him more than a rabbi, while yet they knew him not as the Messiah. It had been foretold by Moses in the Pentateuch, and by the last of the prophets who contributed to the Old Testament canon, that a great Prophet should in after days be raised up by the Eternal. And this was fulfilled in the Prophet of Nazareth.
II. CHRIST'S PROPHETIC QUALIFICATIONS. His Divine nature, his intimacy with his Father, in whose bosom, i.e. in whose counsels and secrets, he was, constituted his supreme fitness for this office. And his humanity, his oneness with the race whose nature he assumed, enabled him to communicate prophetic messages with inimitable effectiveness. A prophet is one who speaks for God; this Jesus did, as none else could or can.
III. CHRIST'S PROPHETIC ACTS. His miracles were such, for they taught, with a power even words could not rival, great spiritual and eternal truths. His conduct in cleansing the temple with authority and holy indignation was an example of action becoming in a Prophet commissioned by God himself.
IV. CHRIST'S PROPHETIC WORDS. To enumerate these would be to repeat a large portion of the Gospel records. He explained the Law; he preached the gospel; he foretold things to come; he spake as One having authority; yet he spake as One having winning attractiveness in all his words.
V. CHRIST'S PROPHETIC PERPETUITY. His word was reiterated by the inspired apostles, to whose memory all his sayings were brought. It is continued in the New Testament, the Word of prophecy. As the Prophet of this spiritual dispensation, Jesus inspires his Church, convinces human minds, changes human hearts, hallows human society. As long as man needs teaching, Christ is, and will remain, the one great Divine and authoritative Prophet of humanity.—T.
In order that the language recorded in this passage to have been used by the Jews may be properly understood, it must be borne in mind that "the Christ" was not a proper name, but an official designation. It is the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew "Messiah," and signifies literally, "the Anointed One." The Christ is, then, One divinely selected, consecrated, and authorized.
I. IT WAS KNOWN BY THE JEWS THAT THE COMING OF THE CHRIST WAS FORETOLD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES. Although the name "Messiah" occurs once only, and that in the Book of Daniel, the observant reader of the Psalms and of the Prophets is well aware that the advent is foretold of a remarkable Being, who should in due time appear to fulfil the benevolent purposes of God towards men. Upon examination it is found that this person was predicted as Divine and yet human, as of royal lineage and authority, as the Bringer of blessings to Israel and to mankind, as a Sufferer and yet as a Conqueror, as One passing through death to victory and to dominion.
II. THE COMING OF THE CHRIST WAS EXPECTED BY THE JEWS AND BY THEIR NEIGHBOURS.
1. This appears from the insight which the Gospels give us into the minds of certain persons who lived at the time of our Lord's ministry and advent. Thus, Simeon was led to expect that he should see the Lord's Christ; men reasoned in their hearts concerning John, whether he were the Christ; the Samaritan woman remarked to Jesus himself, "We know that Messiah cometh."
2. The same appears also from certain tests which the Jews proposed to apply to Jesus of Nazareth, in order to verify or discredit the claim to Messiahship advanced on his behalf. They looked that the Christ should be a descendant of David; that he should be born at Bethlehem; that he should be a Worker of miracles; that he should be the Restorer of the kingdom to Israel, over whom he should rule; that he should abide forever. So far as there was correspondence between the facts of Jesus' ministry and these circumstances, so far there was a disposition on the part of some to acknowledge his Messiahship.
III. THERE WERE OBVIOUS AND POWERFUL HINDRANCES TO THE SPREAD OF THE BELIEF THAT JESUS WAS THE CHRIST.
1. The life of the Prophet of Nazareth in some respects contradicted popular expectations. He was lowly in station; poor and unfriended by the great; he put forward no assumptions of worldly power; he went about doing good. All this was very different from what the Jews expected in the Messiah.
2. Jesus himself discouraged his disciples and friends from noising abroad the tidings of his Messiahship.
3. The authorities of the synagogue, towards the close of our Lord's ministry, threatened with excommunication any who should confess him to be the Christ. This step could not but be adverse to a general recognition of his rightful claims.
IV. THAT JESUS WAS THE CHRIST WAS, HOWEVER, CORDIALLY BELIEVED BY HIS DISCIPLES. Collecting together the somewhat scattered evidence of this fact, the student of the Gospels cannot but be impressed by its abundance and conclusiveness. Andrew, in the very hour of his call to discipleship, acknowledged Jesus as Christ; Peter, at a later period, uttered a memorable confession to the same effect; the Samaritan woman and her neighbours came to the same conclusion; Martha of Bethany gave explicit testimony to her belief of this great fact; some of the Jews, as recorded in the text, did not hesitate to express their belief that Jesus was the Christ. It may be added that the very demons over whom he exercised authority are said to have known that he was the Divine Messiah.
V. JESUS CLAIM TO BE THE CHRIST WAS ONE CHIEF GROUND OF THE HOSTILITY OF THE JEWISH RULERS, AND WAS THE OCCASION OF HIS CONDEMNATION TO DEATH. At our Lord's trial before the high priest, one of the charges against him was that he affirmed himself to be the Christ; and it was upon this, and upon the further charge that he claimed to be the Son of God, that he was deemed by his enemies worthy of death. A rabbi, a prophet, he might have professed himself to be without giving offence. But for a lowly peasant teacher to claim Messiahship was to seal his own doom!
VI. AS CHRIST, JESUS WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD; AND AS CHRIST, HE WAS PREACHED TO THE WORLD. In the discourses which are recorded in the Book of the Acts, as having been delivered after the Ascension, Jesus is set forth as the Christ of God, evidently proved to be such by his resurrection. And the Gospels, as John expressly tells us, were written that their readers might know that Jesus is the Christ. Here, indeed, are the glad tidings to be proclaimed to all men; for it is because Jesus is the Christ of God that he is the Saviour of the world.—T.
The incomparable words.
The testimony of these officers was at least impartial. If they were prejudiced, it was not in favour of Jesus, but against him. Persons in their position were likely to share the feelings of those by whom they were employed, and by whom they were sent on a message hostile to the Prophet of Nazareth. But the demeanour, and especially the language, of Jesus disarmed them. They came under the spell of his wisdom, his grace, his eloquence. And when they returned, without having executed their commission, they justified themselves by the exclamation, "Never man spake like this Man."
I. CHRIST'S WORDS ARE INCOMPARABLE AS REVELATIONS OF TRUTH. He uttered the justest, the sublimest truths regarding the character and attributes of God; concerning the nature, the state, the sin, the peril of man; concerning religion, or the relation between man and God, especially concerning the Divine provision of salvation, and of spiritual and immortal life.
II. CHRIST'S WORDS ARE INCOMPARABLE AS ANNOUNCING LAWS OF HUMAN LIFE. Where else can we find perfect precepts to govern conduct, dictates of morality so spiritual, motives to obedience so mighty? Christ's are the authoritative words of a Divine Lawgiver, who claims to rule the hearts, and, through the hearts, the actions and habits of mankind.
III. CHRIST'S WORDS ARE INCOMPARABLE IN THEIR STYLE AND THEIR ILLUSTRATIONS, ADAPTING THEM TO READERS OF EVERY CLASS. They are simple words, however profound may be the truth they embody; they are beautiful words, which charm a pure and lively imagination; they are earnest words, which rouse emotion and inspire a reverent attention. This is evident both from the place they have taken in literature, and from the fact that they are equally appreciated by the young and the old, by the cultured and the untaught.
IV. CHRIST'S WORDS ARE INCOMPARABLE IN EFFICIENCY. This is the true test, and this test brings out the unequalled power of the words, which are mighty because they are the expression of the Divine mind.. Many of our Lord's sayings might be quoted, which have, as a matter of fact, revolutionized the thoughts and doctrines of millions of men. Some of the greatest reforms in human society may be traced up with certainty to words uttered by the Nazarene.
V. CHRIST'S WORDS ARE INCOMPARABLE FOR THEIR ENDURING, PERMANENT LIFE AND INFLUENCE. The words of many wise, thoughtful, and good men have perished. There are words which are full of meaning and preciousness for one generation, but which fail to affect the generations which follow. But Christ's words are treasured with increasing reverence and attachment by succeeding generations. His own saying is verified by the lapse of time. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."—T.
Class prejudice and Christianity.
The learned and the rich sometimes hate and despise a form of religion because it is favoured by the poor and the ignorant; and these in turn dislike and reject a different form of religion because it is adopted by their social superiors. Something similar to this antipathy seems to have been manifested among the Jews in the time of our Lord; only it was not a form of religion that was in question, it was religion itself, or rather that Being who is in his own person the sum and substance of true religion. There were undoubtedly serious reasons which led rulers and Pharisees to reject Jesus of Nazareth. That mentioned in this passage was not the most serious; but it was a real and influential reason. Jesus was reputed a Galilaean; he was heard gladly by the common people, who were ignorant of the Law. This was reason enough for his rejection by those who respected only the educated and ruling classes of society.
I. THE ASSERTION IMPLIED, viz. that Jesus was not received with faith by the rulers and the Pharisees. This was not universally true. The attitude of Nicodemus on this occasion shows that, even in the council of the nation, faith in Jesus as the Christ was not unknown. Joseph of Arimathaea also was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly. Yet, broadly speaking, it was undoubtedly the case that the upper classes of his countrymen rejected Jesus, and that the more influential among them hated and dreaded him. This may be accounted for, partly upon the general principle that the wealthy and educated tend to conservatism; but mainly by considering how the teaching of Jesus was undermining the authority of the Jewish leaders, and was even threatening to cut off some of the sources of their ill-gotten riches.
II. THE ARGUMENT SUGGESTED. The language suggested some such argument as this—What the learned and leading classes reject is likely to be incredible and unworthy of acceptance; now, these classes altogether repudiate Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, or even as a prophet; there is, therefore, no room for accepting or even considering his claims. The fact of the hostility of the rulers was by this time matter of notoriety, and this had, no doubt, influence with many who were accustomed to look to their social and ecclesiastical superiors for leading. The same principle which was so influential in our Lord's day has in subsequent periods of human history induced many to reject the Saviour. Some have attached importance to the infidelity of princes, others to that of leaders in fashion, others to that of great philosophers; and have permitted their blind reverence for authority to turn their attention away from the weighty credentials of Christianity, and from the claims of Christ himself.
III. THE FALLACY LATENT. This is to be found in the assumption that learned and powerful men are likely to be right upon questions of religion. The events which followed in the history of the Son of man were enough to dispel this illusion. Not for the first or the last time, the judges in whom public confidence is chiefly placed were wrong, and the poor, illiterate, and despised were right. Against a fallacy which has led so many astray, it is well that those who desire above all things to attain the truth should be upon their guard. And the true protection is this: the habit, not of asking—What is the judgment of men? but of asking—What are the indications of the will of God? If the Lord Jesus Christ be in himself adapted to our needs as being the Prophet, the Priest, and the King of humanity, it is of little consequence, so far as practical guidance is concerned, to consider who rejects his claims. Let every one who is a seeker of truth turn his heart and mind to Christ. He is his own best witness, his own most convincing evidence.—T.
HOMILIES BY B. THOMAS
Jesus in relation to time.
I. THE TIME OF JESUS. "My time is not yet come." His time to go up to the feast, or his time to manifest himself. We have here:
1. Jesus as the Subject of time. During his earthly career he was the Subject of time, and dependent upon it. He who was before and really above time was now its Subject. As such:
(1) He had regard to its events; what were taking place in the social and religious world around him, their bearings upon each other, and especially upon his movements and actions, and the bearings of his movements upon the events of the time.
(2) He had regard to the character of his time; to the men who acted in it—men of religious and social authority and power—to their principles and attitude towards him and the great mission of his life.
(3) He shaped his course accordingly. He had a certain amount of time to live and do his work. He could escape death if he wished; but could not have escaped death and perform the mission of his life. He might have shortened his days, and frustrated their end by indiscreetly rushing into the teeth of danger; but as a Subject of time he had due regard to current events and public feelings in relation to him, so that he acted with perfect wisdom and discretion.
2. Jesus as the Manager of time.
(1) To him time was very precious. His time was very short, and he had an immense work to do. Never was so little time given for such a great work. Every moment was an age, and ages were compressed into a moment. He made the best of time. Every moment was infinitely precious.
(2) He had a special time forevery work. He never performed a single miracle nor preached a single discourse at random. There was perfect adaptation and correspondence between his actions and the time. They fitted in with the natural sequence of events, and with the state of thoughts and feelings. They could not be performed at any other time with the same results. They were like the growth of spring and the ripe fulness of harvest.
(3) He had some special work forevery portion of time, so that every hour was well occupied and every minute well spent. He had a season foreverything, and everything was in its season.
(4) The exact time for all his movements was well known to him. He knew when it had not and when it had come, so that he was never too soon nor too late. He could not be induced to move by the solicitations of friends before his time; neither could he be stopped, nor be driven from the scene of duty, when his time had arrived. Punctuality was one of his characteristics. He was at every station and every duty in due time, and not before. He was never waiting, and no one had to wait for him. He was bound to time, and time was bound to him. He was both its Subject and its King.
II. THE TIME OF HIS BRETHREN. Their time and his differed materially.
1. Their time was always ready. This was true with regard to going up to the feast, and also to the manifestation of Christ according to their ideas. They were ever ready and anxious for this. But Christ's time was not yet come. Man's time is often before that of God. His ideas are more limited. God's thoughts and plans move in an infinite circle, and take a longer time to be accomplished. Man's time is often after that of God. Now is God's accepted time to repent and believe. It is at some more convenient season often with man.
2. Their time was by self; his by the general good. Their notions were carnal and selfish, and were inspired in all their movements by principles of self-interest; but Christ's notions were spiritual and Divine, and he was ever inspired in all his movements by Divine and benevolent principles—the glory of God and the spiritual redemption of the human family. There is a vast difference between the time of selfishness and that of self-sacrificing love.
3. Their time was by the present; his was by the future as well. They were prompted by present advantage, by considerations which only embraced the limited period of their own life; but Jesus was prompted by future advantages, and by considerations which embraced endless futurity. Every step he gave was given with regard to all future ages. His time was regulated by eternity, and the eternity of myriads depended on his time.
4. Their time was by earth; his was by heaven. Theirs was by the material sun; his was by the eternal throne. Their principles were in perfect accord with those of the world, and their notions of the Messiah were those of the nation at large. So that they could move with perfect safety whenever they liked, they were in no danger. But the principles of Jesus were in perfect accord with those of God—they were holiness, spirituality, benevolence, self-sacrifice, and mercy, and thus in direct antagonism to the world; so that an unwise move might result in an untimely and fatal collision.
5. Their time was by unbelief; his was by faith. We are told that his brothers did not really believe on him. And unbelief is ever impatient, commanding, and always ready for some carnal demonstration and material sign. Faith is patient, submissive, and ever grateful for a vision when it comes; but if it comes not at the time and in the way expected it waits and trusts and obeys. Jesus was the Messiah and the Saviour of faith. He revealed himself to faith, and faith is the only power on earth which could see, comprehend, and appreciate his real character and his Divine mission; consequently all his movements, although not regardless of unbelief as precautionary, yet were directly made in the interest of faith. When faith is ready, he will be at the feast, and will manifest himself at any risk.
1. We are in as much danger often from mistaken friends as from open foes. Jesus was so now from his brethren and the multitude; they wished to make him King.
2. A word or a deed in season is much more effective than otherwise. Christ's words and deeds were ever seasonable. God has his set time for punishment and salvation.
3. In order that our time should correspond with that of Jesus, let us believe on him. If we wish to have his company to the feast, let us exercise implicit trust in him.
4. If we wish to make the most of time, let us follow Jesus in watching the best season foreverything. Random shots seldom kill anything. We should not merely be diligent, but take aim.—B.T.
"Where is he?"
This question may indicate different thoughts and sentiments with regard to Jesus as asked by different persons. It may be looked upon—
I. AS THE QUESTION OF GENERAL INTEREST. There is no doubt that Jesus was the most interesting person of that age. His mighty works and his wonderful teaching had excited the interest of the general public, and had stirred society to its utmost depth. How many persons there were concerning whom no question was asked! They might come and go almost unnoticed. But not so Jesus. The general question with regard to him was, "Where is he?" His movements were keenly watched, and his presence or absence was keenly noticed.
II. AS THE QUESTION OF WONDER. Although he was not at the last Passover, still he was in the habit of attending the national feasts at Jerusalem; and this being one of the chief, and probably rumours had reached the city of his intention to be present and being now late, wonder would naturally express itself by the question, "Where is he?"
III. AS THE QUESTION OF CURIOSITY. There was a large class to whom Jesus was only a curiosity. In them he excited no other sentiment. They stood in the rear, watching with avidity the actions of those in front. They had neither love nor hatred, but still were busy and interested in the strange phenomenon of his life, and perhaps no sentiment with regard to him would ask the question more often and flippantly, "Where is he?"
IV. AS THE QUESTION OF DOUBT. Doubt with regard to Jesus at this time was very prevalent. The multitude who represented the national idea of the Messiah were doubtful of him. Many of them had recently left him, and had apparently given up the hope of his consenting to be crowned the temporal King of the Jews. Still many of them even were doubtful as to this, and the disciples were not quite free from doubt on this matter. They still clung to the hope, but his absence from the feast, from such a public gathering and an advantageous occasion, would make the most sanguine doubtful, and they would impatiently ask, "Where is he?"
V. AS THE QUESTION OF HATRED. No feeling could be more present in the question than this, especially when we consider that it was asked by the Jews; for the dominant party were bitter, confirmed, and almost unanimous in their hatred to him and his ministry. And in the question as coming from them there was scarcely a spark of any other feeling but confirmed and seething hatred. They were in a region far below that of curiosity and doubt; they were in that of hatred and bloodshed.
VI. AS THE QUESTION OF SINCERE AFFECTION. Those who entertained this feeling were in a small minority, still it is not too much to think that in that vast and generally antagonistic crowd there was many a one who would re-echo the question even from the lips of malice and hatred, and send it forth filled with gratitude and love. "Where is he?"—he who healed my son or my daughter, he who is kind and so full of grace and truth? We know of one, at least, among the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin who would ask it as a question of love—Nicodemus. Genuine love and faith were not quite unrepresented in the inquiries concerning Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles.
1. The wonderful power of language as the instrument of thought and sentiments. The same words may convey different feelings. Murder and love may travel in the same vehicle. "Where is he?"
2. People in all ages make inquiries concerning Jesus Christ from different motives and with different intentions. Their language may be almost the same—"Where is he?" but the motive s and intentions are different and various.
3. It is of paramount importance with what motives and intentions we inquire for Christ. No motive nor intention is worthy of him but faith and the salvation of the soul.
4. Blessed are those who ask with living faith," Where is he?" He will soon appear and satisfy all their wants.—B.T.
An important division.
We have here:
1. A great feast. That of Tabernacles.
2. A great day. The last day of the feast.
3. A great preacher. The Christ, the Son of God.
4. A great sermon. "He cried;" and he had something worth crying—the living water for a thirsty world.
5. A great division. "And there was a division among the people," etc. Notice—
I. SOME OF THE FEATURES OF THIS DIVISION.
1. Jesus was the Subject of this division. "Because of him." The question was—Who was he? what was he? A good or a bad man, a true prophet or an impostor?
2. They were divided in their opinions. Some thought he was the Prophet; some thought he was the Christ; while others doubted, objected, and opposed.
3. They were divided while it was important that they should agree. If he was an impostor, it was important that they should agree to expose him and stem his influence; but if their Messiah, it was all-important that they should agree to accept and obey him.
4. They were divided while they ought to be unanimous. Jesus had told them who he was, and his person, character, ministry, and his mighty works, all were in perfect harmony with his claims. With perfect unity and Divine force they pointed to him as the Son of God.
5. In this division error dissents from truth. Some said, "He is the Christ." Error doubted and objected. Truth is older and firmer than error, right than wrong. Error and wrong are negatives of truth and right.
6. Amidst this division Christ remained the same, and shone on. The different opinions of men make no change in Jesus himself. Christ changes men's opinions, but their opinions produce no change in him.
II. THE UNDERLYLNG PRINCIPLES OF THIS DIVISION AND ITS CONSEQUENT VARIETY OF OPINIONS.
1. Some were prejudiced against him.
(1) Prejudice is unreasonable (John 7:41). It makes more of a place often than a person. The highest claims of a person are ignored through unreasonable objections to the place whence he hails.
(2) Prejudice makes what is really for the truth to appear against it. (John 7:42.) Christ was of the lineage of David, and a native of Bethlehem. They manifest here a culpable ignorance or a wilful suppression of knowledge. Prejudice is capable of both.
2. Some were filled with hatred against him. (John 7:44.) Through this passion even the Son of God appeared as an impostor and a demon. A Being of infinite love could not be accepted nor even recognized through hatred.
3. Some were well disposed to him. (John 7:40.) A favourable disposition will generally find the truth or an approximation to it. "The Prophet;" "the Christ." This was probably the verdict of the majority of that age. Their heads were right, their hearts were wrong.
4. All seemed sadly indifferent. The most earnest were his haters. Even those who rightly pronounced him to be the Christ seemed to lack earnestness of soul. The great "cry" of Jesus on the last day of the feast did not find an adequate response from the heart of the multitudes. There was a division, a stir, and that was apparently all.
1. Christ has occasioned great divisions in the world. This was not She first nor the last. A variety of opinions, of sentiments and feelings, with regard to him. He is the occasion, not the cause. He is the Prince of peace and unity, and yet divisions with regard to him have stirred humanity into the highest pitch of passion, and have resulted in wars, persecutions, and martyrdoms.
2. The most important division of humanity is that on Christ. Nations divide on important questions, but upon none so important as this. Upon this hangs the eternal destiny of the world.
3. In this division all are divided into two parties, for or against him. There is no neutrality.
4. Through divisions, after all, right views of Jesus are obtained. We must obtain peace through wars, calm through storms, and unanimity through divisions. Out of these stirring divisions Christ will come forth as the Son of God and the Saviour of man.
5. In all these divisions it is all-important to possess an earnest spirit and a well disposed heart, for through these alone can we see Jesus as he is.
6. In these divisions we may give Jesus a good name and nothing more. We may call him the Christ, but "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord," etc. He demands the verdict of the heart.
7. In this division where do we stand—for or against him?—B.T.
John 7:45, John 7:46
Captivity led captive.
I. THE COUNCIL'S QUESTION. "Why did ye not bring him?" There are several feelings and sentiments implied in this question.
1. Great hatred. They hated Jesus to such an extent that they wished to put him to death. For this purpose they sent the officers to take him, and the hatred which inspired this contemplated deed was implied in this question. Human hatred cannot go further than this. Murder is the last cowardly argument of bigotry and weakness. They had no reason. Hatred does not require a valid reason; it will coin one for itself. It was seething in the question, "Why," etc.?
2. Great surprise. They would not be more surprised to see Jesus there without the officers than to see the officers without Jesus. They were not some men sent at random, but picked officers, furnished with authority and strictly commanded to bring him. But they are returned without their victim—and why? They are lost in surprise.
3. Great disappointment. They had calculated upon a feast more enjoyable to them than that of Tabernacles. They had stayed away from the latter in anticipation of a greater luxury—to have the victim of their hatred in their power. But, behold the officers without him! It is thought that the best opportunity is lost. By the next time the attempt is made to take him, he will perhaps have so grown in power and popularity that it will be in vain. A good opportunity is lost; the feast of hatred and malice is missed. "Why," etc.? The question trembles with disappointment. Hatred is terribly disappointed when it cannot obtain what it wishes.
4. A great insult. In this question we can hear the quivering notes of insulted pride. "Why," etc.? There is a suspicion that their authority was disobeyed and their command set at naught, and that by their inferiors, their dependents, their menials; and they demand the reason.
5. A severe reproof. We can well imagine their voices thunders, their words lightnings, and their visage as the angry sky just before a storm, as they asked the question, "Why did ye," etc.? If their power and authority were equal to their hatred and pride, these officials would soon have to feel the terrible weight of their revenge.
II. THE OFFICERS' REPLY. "Never man," etc.
1. This is a remarkable testimony of unbiased witnesses to Jesus. If they had any prejudice at all, it would certainly be against him. It is almost the general rule that servants are inspired with the spirit and sentiments of their masters. If so, we can well imagine how these officers felt and spoke as they went forth to take Jesus. But they returned in a different spirit and with a different tale. "Never man," etc. No one can suspect them of undue partiality to Jesus, but rather the contrary; therefore their testimony is remarkable and of special value.
2. It is the testimony of personal experience, as well as that of popular opinion. It is not the result of hearsay or a second hand report, but they had heard Jesus with their own ears, and seen with their own eyes the wonderful effect he had on the multitudes, and this was the testimony of their own personal experience and observation: "Never man," etc.
3. It is a great but a natural testimony to Jesus as a Teacher. "Never man," etc. There had been in the world great men among Jews and Gentiles—mighty orators, eloquent prophets, and sage philosophers; but "never man," etc., not even Moses. "Never man," etc. As much as to say that he must be more than a mere man; if not, the fact is still more extraordinary that a poor, uneducated Galilaean should eclipse all his illustrious predecessors in wisdom and Divine eloquence as a Teacher. Grant him to be the Messiah—the Son of God incarnate—then this testimony, though great, is most natural. What else could be expected?
4. The substantial truth of this testimony is amply corroborated by the teaching of Jesus. Although we have not the fascinating voice, the effective utterance, and the charming presence, yet sufficient is recorded to prove the unquestionable truth of the testimony. The testimony of these officers must have been inspired, for they could not fully comprehend it; still its truth has been confirmed by the most intelligent, learned, and competent judges of all succeeding ages. "Never man," etc.
(1) Never man spake such Divine and sublime truths—truths concerning man and God, concerning this world and the other. Never man spake as he to reason, to conscience, to the will and heart.
(2) Never man spake with such authority, ease, naturalness, transparency, and conviction.
(3) Never man spake with such Divine effect. To various objects—to nature, to diseases, to demons, to death, to man in all conditions, to the guilty, to the penitent, to the weary and heavy laden, etc.
5. The genuineness of their testimony is attested by the fact that they returned without him. His influence over them is patent to all. The strictness of the command and the fear of the consequences of failure to carry it out would naturally cause them to strain every nerve to take him. But they failed, and they could assign no other reason for their failure than the superhuman influence of his speech and doctrine. It is recorded as a proof of the eloquence of Marcus Antonius the orator, that when Marius sent soldiers to kill him, he pleaded with such eloquence for his life that they could not touch him, and they left him in tears. But here is an instance of a more captivating eloquence. Christ did not appeal to the pity of his captors, neither did he plead for his life; but he appealed to the conscience and heart, and pleaded for the life of the condemned world with such power as to disarm them. They returned without him, amazed and spellbound with his magic eloquence, and could give no account of their failure but in the simple but touching story, "Never man," etc.
1. We have here a singular instance of the wrath of man being made to praise the Lord. Instead of these officers bringing Jesus before the council to be tried and condemned, he sends them back to the council to bear witness to his excellence and preach his glory, even to his bitterest enemies.
2. Servants and dependents are often more open to conviction than their masters and superiors. Those who have had but few, if any, privileges are often touched by Divine truths before those who have been highly favoured. Thus the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.
3. Jesus has often taken those who would take him. These officers went to take him, but he took them. Saul of Tarsus is another instance, and the history of conversions through the ages is full of instances of Christ leading captivity captive.
4. The testimony of these officers has been the testimony of all who have given Jesus a fair hearing. Scholarship and common sense have joined the believer's experience in saying, "Never man,"etc.
5. It is not enough to admire Christ as a Teacher, but we must believe and obey him.—B.T.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The time of Jesus—when is it to come?
The course of life in every living thing is, to a great extent, according to a fixed order. Every human being has that in his whole appearance which tells something of the number of years he has been in the world. But in the life of the Lord Jesus there was something beyond the order of mere natural development. There was an order in his life which it depended on his own discernment and obedience to maintain. His brethren wanted him to rush at every opportunity that seemed likely to them. But Jesus was not one to pluck fruit before it was ripe. He began quietly, went on gradually, builded things up, and then, when the hour for full revelation came, the revelation came with it.
I. THE PARTICULAR SEASON FOR WHICH JESUS WAS WAITING. His brethren wanted. him to make the best of the crowd that would be at Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles, however, was only a secondary occasion compared with the Feast of the Passover. There could have been nothing to remember at the Feast of Tabernacles unless, first of all, there had been something to remember at the Feast of the Passover. All other glorious recollections which Israel had to cherish with gratitude and hope came out of the deliverance from Egypt. Thus, at the Feast of the Passover, the time of Jesus fully came, and the coming was made manifest by his public and triumphal entry. The multitude surrounding him had come up for the Passover, like himself. They shout "Hosannah!" that is, they utter forth a prayer for salvation. And this prayer was soon answered, though not as the multitude expected, and not in a way that many of them would profit by. Jesus was just about to be delivered over to men, that men might do their worst to him. Then, when men had done their worst, his Father in heaven would do his best. Everything was done just at the right time. And all this comes forth from that Lord of hosts who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working. It is just what we should expect, that God's great dealings in grace should have about them the order and regularity which mark his dealings in nature.
II. HOW WE ARE TO PROFIT BY THE FULL COMING OF THE TIME OF JESUS. We can only profit by the coming of this time as we make it to profit. The time of Jesus has to come fully with each of us. Not a human being who has ever trod this planet but has to come somewhere and somehow in contact with Jesus. We can no more escape Jesus than we can escape death. Life is narrowing day by day, and we are getting pushed on to a wicket gate where face-to-face dealing with Jesus is inevitable. The time has fully come for Jesus to be showing something of his saving power in our experience. Whenever Jesus, in the days of his flesh, met with those who had divers diseases and infirmities, the time was fully come for him to take those diseases and infirmities away. And so the time of Jesus is fully come to save whenever the sinner feels his need of saving. When the lifeboat is built and put in the lifeboat house, the time is fully come for the boat to do its work. Whenever the work is ready for it, it is ready for the work. So Jesus is ready for the sinner whenever the sinner is ready for him. Ready to save, ready to govern, ready to comfort, ready to put in the way of a full recompense for an obedient life.—Y.
Christ's authority and the way to ascertain it.
It was very natural for a Jerusalem audience to say with respect to Jesus, "Why should we listen to this Man?"
1. It is very natural that any one making special claims should be regarded with special caution. Jesus knew quite well that he would not be readily received on his own valuation. Thanks are owing to those who opposed and criticized him in the days of his flesh. Their very way of talking to him, the true Teacher, showed how little the instruction of other teachers had done for them.
2. Jesus had not been brought up among the people who were recognized as having the right to send forth teachers. As we should say, Jesus bad not been to Oxford or Cambridge. He would not speak like an educated Jew of Jerusalem, but like the son of a working man from far off Galilee. So Jesus had to explain the marvel how he seemed to know the Law and the Prophets at least as well as those whose whole lives had been spent in acquiring the knowledge.
I. LOOK AT THE CLASS WHO ARE SPECIALLY INTERESTED IN THIS VERSE. Those who wanted to know something certain about the authority and doctrine of Christ. These people in Jerusalem had all sorts of thoughts about Jesus. Some said he was a good man; others, a deceiver of the people. It was once said of him that he cast out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons. Some thought he was Elijah; some Jeremiah, or, at all events, one of the prophets. There was no certainty about him in the minds of many. And in the minds of many the same uncertainty still prevails. Learned men spend years examining the Gospels, and they have nothing indubitable to report in the end. Yet be sure Jesus wants effectually to help all that are in real perplexity about him. Did he not say, "Blessed is he whosoever is not offended in me"?
II. HOW THIS CLASS IS TO BE HELPED. This class will always find a stumbling block in Jesus till it grows through a great inward change. Those who have no will to do the will of God will never find out the truth as it is in Jesus. Our own self-will and self-conceit form the greatest stumbling block. Self-willed people find it very uncomfortable the more they come to close quarters with Jesus. He never speaks without contradicting some dear desire of the unrenewed heart. Jesus was ever on the look out for people who wanted to do the will of God—people who felt they had come into the world to do the will of him who made them and the world into which they had come. God has his wishes just as much as any of us. A conscientious and loving servant, who is far away from his master, will ever have the thought of the master's wish before him; and when oftentimes he sees not quite clearly what the master would have him to do, he will be on the look out for every source of instruction. If, then, at such a moment a messenger should come from the master, meanly clad, and with a message written on a scrap of the commonest paper, he will not think less of the message if it tells him just what he wants to know. When John Williams the missionary was building his chapel in Rarotonga, he had occasion one day to send to his wife for something he had forgotten, so he scribbled the necessary message on a chip with a bit of charcoal. He took the materials at hand, but the message was none the less valid, none the less understood. And so the greatest of all messages, from the infinite and eternal God, is none the less his message because it came through One who was born in the lowliest surroundings and brought up in the home of a Galilaean working man. If we are resolutely on the side of God, God will help us into all truth, security, peace, and blessedness.—Y.
Good news for the thirsty.
Jesus uttered forth this cry on the great day of the feast—a time of ceasing from work, a time of solemn assembly. Quietly as Jesus had gone up to the feast, by this time he had become the Centre of a vast concourse. Because the concourse would be vast and not over quiet, and also because his message, if important, was tremendously important, he cried. We feel that, in doing this, that voice which spake as never man spake would only rise from sweetness to sublimity.
I. WHY DID JESUS PUT HIS INVITATION IN THIS PARTICULAR WAY? It could hardly be because of the present surroundings of the people. Jerusalem was plentifully supplied with water. Not a soul in the crowd but could get a drink very quickly. The main reason must be found in the feast which had brought the people together. It was the feast instituted to commemorate the forty years in the wilderness, and serious people would call to mind all the events of that period. Prominent among the experiences of wandering Israel was the miraculous supply of water. Where would the people have been but for the God who turned bitter waters into sweet, and made springs to burst forth in the desert? Thus the observers of the feast would be led to think of the intenser thirst of the inward man. Jesus tried to put the truth in every possible way. What did not catch the experience of one would catch that of another. Not everybody would this appeal of the Lord touch. They would not have been through the experiences and reflections which gave a proper feeling of the urgency and the pain of thirst. But if in all that crowd hearing the cry of Jesus there was but one, only one, who had known the agonies of thirst far away in some sandy waste where no water was, it was worth while for Jesus to shout aloud so that that single man might hear.
II. How THIS INVITATION IS TO BE MADE ATTRACTIVE TO US. We know nothing by our own experience of dry and thirsty lands. Wander anywhere through broad England and you can get a drink of water for the asking. We may sometimes have been inconvenienced a little, but that is no sufficient experience of thirst which lasts only for an hour or two. Reading accounts of some shipwrecks, we may gather a little of the feeling. Coleridge puts it thus in 'The Ancient Mariner'—
"Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink."
Of all the physical wants man can feel, none is capable of being raised to such a pitch of intensity as the want of water. So, down underneath the figure Jesus employs, there is a suggestion of the terrible suffering some have to undergo in finding spiritual truth and peace. As few comparatively know the full suffering of bodily thirst, so few comparatively know the full suffering of spiritual thirst. Few know such a state of heart as would warrant them in saying that their souls thirst for God. The way of agony is the way some must travel before they can be filled with the fulness of God. But intense agony in the sphere of the spiritual, as in the sphere of the natural, must be an exceptional thing. Yet who can tell but he may illustrate the exceptional, and so need to get guidance through the word of Jesus here? There are many things that say, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." Then the thirsty drink, and find their thirst unquenched and intensified. We may have our natural Elims. What if they change to Marahs? What if the rushing stream dries away to a few tantalizing and useless drops?—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on John 7". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent