EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN VOLUME 2 JOHN 8-15:6 by A.W. Pink


EXPOSITION OF THE
GOSPEL OF JOHN
VOLUME 2
JOHN 8-15:6
by A.W. Pink
CONTENTS
28. Christ and the Adulterous Woman:

John 8:1-11
29. Christ the Light of the World:

John 8:12-32
30. Christ the Light of the World (Concluded):

John 8:33-59
31. Christ and the Blind Beggar:

John 9:1-7
32. Christ and the Blind Beggar (Continued):

John 9:8-23
33. Christ and the Blind Beggar (Concluded):

John 9:24-41
34. Christ the Door:

John 10:1-10
35. Christ the Good Shepherd:

John 10:11-21
36. Christ One with the Father:

John 10:22-42
37. Christ Raising Lazarus:

John 11:1-10
38. Christ Raising Lazarus (Continued):

John 11:11-27
39. Christ Raising Lazarus (Concluded):

John 11:28-44
40. Christ Feared by the Sanhedrin:

John 11:45-57
41. Christ Anointed at Bethany:

John 12:1-11
42. Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem:

John 12:12-20
43. Christ Sought by Gentiles:

John 12:20-36
44. Christ’s Ministry Reviewed:

John 12:37-50
45. Christ Washing His Disciple’s Feet:

John 13:1-11
46. Christ’s Example for Us:

John 13:12-20
47. Christ’s Warnings:

John 13:21-38
48. Christ Comforting His Disciples:

John 14:1-11
49. Christ Comforting His Disciples (Continued):

John 14:12-20
50. Christ Comforting His Disciples (Concluded):

John 14:21-31
51. Christ the True Vine:

John 15:1-6.3
CHAPTER 28
CHRIST AND THE ADULTEROUS WOMAN

JOHN 8:1-11
We begin with the customary Analysis: —
1. Jesus retires to the mount of Olives: verse 1.
2. Jesus teaching in the temple: verse 2.
3. The Pharisees confront Him with an adulterous woman: verses 3-6.
4. Christ turns the light upon them: verses 6-8.
5. The Pharisees overcome by the light: verse 9.
6. The woman left alone with Christ: verse 10.
7. The woman dismissed with a warning: verse 11.
In this series of expositions of John’s Gospel we have sedulously avoided
technical matters, preferring to confine ourselves to that which would
provide food for the soul. But in the present instance we deem it necessary
to make an exception. The passage which is to be before us has long been
the subject of controversy. Its authenticity has been questioned even by
godly men.

John 7:53 to 8:11 inclusive is not found in a number of the
most important of the ancient manuscripts. The R.V. places a question
mark against this passage. Personally we have not the slightest doubt but
that it forms a part of the inspired Word of God, and that for the following
reasons:
First, if our passage be a spurious one then we should have to pass straight
from

John 7:52 to 8:12. Let the reader try this, and note the effect; and
then let him go back to

John 7:52 and read straight through to

John
8:14. Which seems the more natural and reads the more smoothly?
Second, if we omit the first eleven verses of John 8, and start the chapter
with verse 12, several questions will rise unavoidably and prove very
difficult to answer satisfactorily. For example: “Then spake Jesus” —
when? What simple and satisfactory answer can be found in the second.4
part of John 7? But give

John 8:1-11 its proper place, and the answer is,
Immediately after the interruption recorded in verse 3. “Then spake Jesus
again unto them” (verse 12) — unto whom? Go back to the second half of
John 7 and see if it furnishes any decisive answer. But give

John 8:2 a
place, and all is simple and plain. Again in verse 13 we read, “The
Pharisees therefore said unto him”: this was in the temple (verse 20). But
how came the Pharisees there?

John 7:45 shows them elsewhere. But
bring in

John 8:1-11 and this difficulty vanishes, for

John 8:2 shows
that this was the day following.
In the third place, the contents of

John 8:1-11 are in full accord with the
evident design of this section of the Gospel. The method followed in these
chapters is most significant. In each instance we find the Holy Spirit
records some striking incident in our Lord’s life, which serves to introduce
and illustrate the teaching which follows it. In chapter 5 Christ quickens the
impotent man, and makes that miracle the text of the sermon He preached
immediately after it. In John 6 He feeds the hungry multitude, and right
after gives the two discourses concerning Himself as the Bread of life. In
John 7 Christ’s refusal to go up to the Feast publicly and openly manifest
His glory, is made the background for that wondrous word of the future
manifestation of the Holy Spirit through believers — issuing from them as
“rivers of living water.” And the same principle may be observed here in

John 8. In

John 8:12 Christ declares, “I am the light of the world,”
and the first eleven verses supply us with a most striking illustration and
solemn demonstration of the power of that “light.” Thus it may be seen
that there is an indissoluble link between the incident recorded in

John
8:1-11 and the teaching of our Lord immediately following.
Finally, as we shall examine these eleven verses and study their contents,
endeavoring to sound their marvelous depths, it will be evident, we trust,
to every spiritual intelligence, that no uninspired pen drew the picture
therein described. The internal evidence, then, and the spiritual indications
(apprehended and appreciated only by those who enter into God’s
thoughts) are far more weighty than external considerations. The one who
is led and taught by the Spirit of God need not waste valuable time
examining ancient manuscripts for the purpose of discovering whether or
not this portion of the Bible is really a part of God’s own Word.
Our passage emphasizes once more the abject condition of Israel. Again
and again does the Holy Spirit call our attention to the fearful state that.5
Israel was in during the days of Christ’s earthly ministry. In chapter 1 we
see the ignorance of the Jews as to the identity of the Lord’s forerunner
(

John 1:14), and blind to the Divine Presence in their midst (

John
1:26). In chapter 2 we have illustrated the joyless state of the nation, and
are shown their desecration of the Father’s House. In chapter 3 we behold
a member of the Sanhedrin dead in trespasses and sins, needing to be born
again (

John 3:7), and the Jews quibbling with John’s disciples about
purifying (

John 3:25). In chapter 4 we discover the callous indifference
of Israel toward their Gentile neighbors — “the Jews have no dealings with
the Samaritans” (

John 4:9). In chapter 5 we have a portrayal of God’s
covenant people in the great multitude of impotent folk, “blind, halt and
withered.” In chapter 6 they are represented as hungry, yet having no
appetite for the Bread of life. In chapter 7 the leaders of the nation send
officers to arrest Christ. And now in chapter 8 Israel is contemplated as
Jehovah’s unfaithful wife — “adulterous.”
“Jesus went unto the mount of Olives” (

John 8:1).
This points a contrast from the closing verse of the previous chapter. There
we read, Every man went unto his own house. Here we are told, “Jesus
went unto the mount of Olives.” We believe that this contrast conveys a
double thought, in harmony with the peculiar character of this fourth
Gospel. All through John two things concerning Christ are made
prominent: His essential glory and His voluntary humiliation. Here, the
Holy Spirit presents Him to us as the eternal Son of God, but also as the
Son come down from heaven, made flesh. Thus we are given to behold, on
the one hand, His uniqueness, His peerless excellency; and on the other, the
depths of shame into which He descended. Frequently these are placed
almost side by side. Thus in chapter 4, we read of Him, “wearied with his
journey” (verse 6); and then in the verses that follow, His Divine glories
shine forth. Other examples will recur to the reader. So here in the passage
before us. “Jesus went unto the mount of Olives” (following

John 7:53)
suggests the elevation of Christ. But no doubt it also tells of the
humiliation of the Savior. The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had
nests, but the Son of man had not where to lay His head (

Matthew
8:20): therefore, when “every man went unto his own house,” “Jesus went
unto the mount of Olives,” for He “owned” no “house” down here. He
who was rich for our sakes became poor..6
“And early in the morning he came again into the temple”
(

John 8:2).
There is nothing superfluous in Scripture. Each one of these scenes has
been drawn by the Heavenly Artist, so we may be fully assured that every
line, no matter how small, has a meaning and value. If we keep steadily
before us the subject of this picture we shall be the better able to appreciate
its varied tints. The theme of our chapter is the outshining of the Light of
life. How appropriate then is this opening word: the early “morning” is the
hour which introduces the daylight!
“And early in the morning he came again into the temple.” This word also
conveys an important practical lesson for us, inasmuch as Christ here
leaves an example that we should follow His steps. In the first sermon of
our Lord’s recorded in the New Testament we find that He said,
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness”
(

Matthew 6:33),
and He ever practiced what he preached. The lesson which our Redeemer
here exemplified is, that we need to begin the day by seeking the face and
blessing of God! The Divine promise is, “They that seek me early shall find
me” (

Proverbs 8:17). How different would be our lives if we really
began each day with God! Thus only can we obtain that fresh supply of
grace which will give the needed strength for the duties and conflicts of the
hours that follow.
“And all the people came unto him” (

John 8:2).
This is another instance where the word “all” must be understood in a
modified sense. Again and again is it used relatively rather than absolutely.
For example, in

John 3:26 we read of the disciples of John coming to
their master in complaint that Christ was attracting so many to Himself: “all
come to him,” they said. Again, in

John 6:45 the Lord Jesus declared,
“They shall be all taught of God.” So here, “all the people came unto him.”
These and many other passages which might be cited should prevent us
from falling into the errors of Universalism. For example, “I, if I be lifted
up from the earth will draw all unto me” (

John 12:32), does not mean
all without exception. It is a very patent fact that everybody is not “drawn”
to Christ. The “all” in

John 12:32 is all without distinction. So here “all
the people came unto him” (

John 8:2) signifies all that were in the.7
temple, that is, all kinds and conditions of men, men of varied age and
social standing, men from the different tribes.
“And he sat down, and taught them” (

John 8:2).
Jesus stood; Jesus walked; Jesus sat. Each of these expressions in John’s
Gospel conveys a distinctive moral truth. Jesus “stood” directs attention to
the dignity and blessedness of His person, and it is very solemn to note that
in no single instance (where this expression occurs) was the glory of His
person recognized: cf.

John 1:26; 7:37 and what follows;

John
20:14, 19, 26; 21:4. Jesus “walked” refers to the public manifestation of
Himself: see our notes on

John 7:1. Jesus “sat” points to His
condescending lowliness, meekness and grace: see

John 4:6; 6:3; 12:15.
“And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in
adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto
him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned:
but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might
have to accuse him” (

John 8:3-6).
Following the miscarriage of their plans on the previous day — through the
failure of the officers to arrest Christ (

John 7:45) — the enemies of
Christ hit upon a new scheme: they sought to impale Him on the horns of a
dilemma. The roar of the “lion” had failed; now we are to behold the wiles
of the “serpent.”
The awful malignity of the Lord’s enemies is evident on the surface. They
brought this adulterous woman to Christ not because they were shocked at
her conduct, still less because they were grieved that God’s holy law had
been broken. Their object was to use this woman to exploit her sin and
further their own evil designs. With coldblooded indelicacy they acted,
employing the guilt of their captive to accomplish their evil intentions
against Christ. Their motive cannot be misinterpreted. They were anxious
to discredit our Lord before the people. They did not wait until they could
interrogate Him in private, but, interrupting as He was teaching the people,
they rudely challenged Him to solve what must have seemed to them an
unsolvable enigma.
The problem by which they sought to defy Infinite Wisdom was this: A
woman had been taken in the act of adultery, and the law required that she
should be stoned. Of this there is no room for doubt, see

Leviticus.8
20:10 and

Deuteronomy 22:22.
f8
“What sayest thou?” they asked. An
insidious question, indeed. Had He said, “Let her go,” they could then
accuse Him as being an enemy against the law of God, and His own word
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not
come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew verse 17) had been falsified. But
if He answered, “Stone her,” they would have ridiculed the fact that He
was the “friend of publicans and sinners.” No doubt they were satisfied that
they had Him completely cornered. On the one hand, if He ignored the
charge they brought against this guilty woman, they could accuse Him of
compromising with sin; on the other hand, if He passed sentence on her,
what became of His own word, “For God sent not his Son into the world
to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved”
(

John 3:17)? Here, then, was the dilemma: if Christ palliated the
wickedness of this woman, where was His respect for the holiness of God
and the righteousness of His law; but if He condemned her, what became
of His claim that He had come here to “seek and to save that which was
lost” (

Luke 19:10)? And yet of what avail was their satanic subtlety in
the presence of God manifest in flesh!
Ere passing on it may be well to notice how this incident furnishes an
illustration of the fact that wicked men can quote the Scriptures when they
imagine that it will further their evil designs: “Now Moses in the law
commanded us, that such should be stoned.” But what cared they for the
law? They were seeking to turn the point of the Spirit’s “sword” against
the One they hated; soon they were to feel its sharp edge of themselves.
Let us not be deceived then and conclude that every one who quotes
Scripture to us must, necessarily, be a God-fearing man. Those who quote
the Scriptures to condemn others are frequently the guiltiest of all. Those
who are so solicitous to point to the mote in another’s eye, generally have
a beam in their own.
But there is far more here than meets the eye at first glance, or second too.
The whole incident supplies a most striking portrayal of what is developed
at length in the epistle to the Romans. It is not difficult to discern here
(skulking behind the scenes) the hideous features of the great Enemy of
God and His people. The hatred of these scribes and Pharisees was fanned
by the inveterate enmity of the Serpent against the woman’s “Seed.” The
subject is profoundly mysterious, but Scripture supplies more than one
plain hint that Satan is permitted to challenge the very character of God —
the book of Job, the third of Zechariah, and

Revelation 12:10 are proofs.9
of that. No doubt one reason why the Lord God suffers this is for the
instruction of the unfallen angels — cf.

Ephesians 3:10.
The problem presented to Christ by His enemies was no mere local one. So
far as human reason can perceive it was the profoundest moral problem
which ever could or can confront God Himself. That problem was how
justice and mercy could be harmonized. The law of righteousness
imperatively demands the punishment of its transgressor. To set aside that
demand would be to introduce a reign of anarchy. Moreover, God is holy
as well as righteous; and holiness burns against evil, and cannot allow that
which is defiled to enter His presence. What, then, is to become of the poor
sinner? A transgressor of the law he certainly is; and equally manifest is his
moral pollution. His only hope lies in mercy; his salvation is possible only
by grace. But how can mercy be exercised when the sword of justice bars
her way? How can grace flow forth except by slighting holiness? Ah,
human wisdom could never have found an answer to such questions. It is
evident that these scribes and Pharisees thought of none. And we are fully
assured that at the beginning Satan himself could see no solution to this
mighty problem. But blessed be His name, God has “found a way” whereby
His banished ones may be restored (

2 Samuel 14:13, 14). What this is
we shall see hinted at in the remainder of our passage.
Let us observe how each of the essential elements in this problem of all
problems is presented in the passage before us. We may summarize them
thus: First, we have there the person of that blessed One who had come to
seek and to save that which was lost. Second, we have a sinner, a guilty
sinner, one who could by no means clear herself. Third, the law was against
her: the law she had broken, and the declared penalty of it was death.
Fourth, the guilty sinner was brought before the Savior Himself, and was
indicted by His enemies. Such, then, was the problem now presented to
Christ. Would grace stand helpless before law? If not, wherein lay the
solution? Let us attend carefully to what follows.
“But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground”
(

John 8:6).
This was the first thing that He here did. That there was a symbolical
significance to His action goes without saying, and what this is we are not
left to guess. Scripture is its own interpreter. This was not the first time
that the Lord had written “with his finger.” In

Exodus 31:18 we read,
“And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with.10
him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written
with the finger of God.” When, then, our Lord wrote on the ground (from
the ground must the “tables of stone” have been taken), it was as though
He had said, You remind Me of the law! Why, it was My finger which
wrote that law! Thus did He show these Pharisees that He had come here,
not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. His writing on the ground, then, was
(symbolically) a ratification of God’s righteous law. But so blind were His
would-be accusers they discerned not the significance of His act.
“So when they continued asking him” (

John 8:7).
It is evident that our Lord’s enemies mistook His silence for
embarrassment. They no more grasped the force of His action of writing on
the ground, than did Belshazzar understand the writing of that same Hand
on the walls of his palace. Emboldened by His silence, and satisfied that
they had Him cornered, they continued to press their question upon Him.
O the persistency of evil-doers! How often they put to shame our lack of
perseverance and importunity.
“So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said
unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a
stone at her” (

John 8:7).
This, too, has a far deeper meaning than what appears on the surface.
God’s Law was a holy and a righteous one, and here we find the Lawgiver
Himself turning its white light upon these men who really had so little
respect for it. Christ was here intimating that they, His would-be accusers,
were no fit subjects to demand the enforcement of the law’s sentence.
None but a holy hand should administer the perfect law. In principle, we
may see here the great Adversary and Accuser reprimanded. Satan may
stand before the angel of the Lord to resist “the high priest” (

Zechariah
3:1), but, morally, he is the last one who should insist on the maintenance
of righteousness. And how strikingly this reprimanding of the Pharisees by
Christ adumbrated what we read of in

Zechariah 3:2 (“The Lord rebuke
thee, O Satan”) scarcely needs to be pointed out.
“And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground”
(

John 8:8).
Profoundly significant was this, and unspeakably blessed. The symbolic
meaning of it is plainly hinted at in the word “again”: the Lord wrote on
the ground a second time. And of what did that speak? Once more the Old.11
Testament Scriptures supply the answer. The first “tables of stone” were
dashed to the ground by Moses, and broken. A second set was therefore
written by God. And what became of the second “tables of stone”? They
were laid up in the ark (

Exodus 40:20), and were covered by the blood-sprinkled
mercy-seat! Here, then, Christ was giving more than a hint of
how He would save those who were, by the law, condemned to death. It
was not that the law would be set aside: far from it. As His first stooping
down and with His finger writing on the ground intimated, the law would
be “established.” But as He stooped down and wrote the second time, He
signified that the shed blood of an innocent substitute should come
between the law and those it condemned!
“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience,
went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last”
(

John 8:9).
Thus was “the strong man bound” (

Matthew 12:29). Christ’s enemies
had thought to ensnare Him by the law of Moses; instead, they had its
searching light turned upon themselves. Grace had not defied, but had
upheld the law! One sentence from the lips of Holiness incarnate and they
were all silenced, all convicted, and all departed. At another time, a self-righteous
Pharisee might boast of his lastings, his tithes and his prayers; but
when God turns the light on a man’s heart, his moral and spiritual
depravity become apparent even to himself, and shame shuts his lips. So it
was here. Not a word had Christ uttered against the law; in nowise had He
condoned the woman’s sin. Unable to find any ground for accusation
against Him, completely baffled in their evil designs, convicted by their
consciences, they slunk away: “beginning at the eldest,” because he had the
most sin to hide and the most reputation to preserve. And in the conduct of
these men we have a clear intimation of how the wicked will act in the last
great Day. Now, they may proclaim their self-righteousness, and talk about
the injustice of eternal punishment. But then, when the light of God flashes
upon them, and their guilt and ruin are fully exposed, they shall, like these
Pharisees, be speechless.
“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went
out.” There is a solemn warning here for sinners who may be exercised in
mind over their condition. Here were men who were “convicted by their
own conscience,” yet instead of this causing them to cast themselves at the
feet of Christ, it resulted in them leaving Christ! Nothing short of the Holy.12
Spirit’s quickening will ever bring a soul into saving contact with the Lord
Jesus.
“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience,
went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last:
and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst”
(

John 8:9).
This is exceedingly striking. These scribes and Pharisees had challenged
Christ from the law. He met them on their own ground, and vanquished
them by the law.
“When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he
said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no
man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said
unto her, Neither do I condemn thee” (

John 8:10, 11).
The law required two witnesses before its sentence could be executed
(

Deuteronomy 19:15), yet, those witnesses must assist in the carrying
out of the sentence (

Deuteronomy 17:7). But here not a single witness
was left to testify against this woman who had merely been indicted. Thus
the law was powerless to touch her. What, then, remained? Why, the way
was now clear for Christ to act in “grace and truth.”
“Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (

John 8:11).
No doubt the question occurs to many of our readers, Was this woman
saved at the time she left Christ? Personally, we believe that she was. We
believe so because she did not leave Christ when she had opportunity to do
so; because she addressed Him as “Lord” (contrast “Master” of the
Pharisees in verse 4); and because Christ said to her, “Neither do I
condemn thee.” But, as another has said, “In looking at these incidents of
Scripture, we need not ask if the objects of the grace act in the intelligence
of the story. It is enough for us that here was a sinner exposed in the
presence of Him who came to meet sin and put it away. Whoever takes the
place of this woman meets the word that clears of condemnation, just as
the publicans and sinners with whom Christ eats in Luke 15, set forth this,
that if one takes the place of the sinner and the outcast, he is at once
received. So with the lost sheep and the lost piece of silver. There is no
intelligence of their condition, yet they set forth that which, if one take, it is
representative. To make it clear, one might ask, ‘Are you as sinful as this
woman, as badly lost as that sheep or piece of silver?’“ (Malachi Taylor).13
“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went
out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was
left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up
himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are
those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man,
Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no
more.” How striking and how blessed is this sequel to what has been
before us! When Christ wrote on the ground the second time (not before),
the “accusers” of the guilty departed! And then, after the last accuser had
disappeared, the Lord said, “Neither do I condemn thee.” How perfect the
picture{ And to complete it, Christ added, “Go, and sin no more,” which is
still His word to those who have been saved by grace. And the ground, the
righteous ground, on which He pronounced this verdict “Neither do I
condemn thee,” was, that in a short time He was going to be “condemned”
in her stead. Finally, note the order of these two words of Christ to this
woman who owned Him as “Lord” (

1 Corinthians 12:3). It was not,
“Go and sin no more, and I will not condemn thee,” for that would have
been a death-knell rather than good news in her ears. Instead, the Savior
said, “Neither do I condemn thee.” And to every one who takes the place
this woman was brought into, the word is, “There is therefore now no
condemnation” (

Romans 8:1). “And sin no more” placed her, as we are
placed, under the constraint of His love.
This incident then contains far more than that which was of local and
ephemeral significance. It, in fact, raises the basic question of, How can
mercy and justice be harmonized? How can grace flow forth except by
slighting holiness? In the scene here presented to our view we are shown,
not by a closely reasoned out statement of doctrine, but in symbolic action,
that this problem is not insoluable to Divine wisdom. Here was a concrete
case of a guilty sinner leaving the presence of Christ un-condemned. And it
was neither because the law had been slighted nor sin palliated. The
requirements of the law were strictly complied with, and her sin was openly
condemned — “sin no more.” Yet, she herself, was not condemned. She
was dealt with according to “grace and truth.” Mercy flowed out to her,
yet not at the expense of justice. Such, in brief, is a summary, of this
marvelous narrative; a narrative which, verily, no man ever invented and no
uninspired pen ever recorded.
This blessed incident not only anticipated the epistle to the Romans, but it
also outlines, by vivid symbols, the Gospel of the grace of God. The.14
Gospel not only announces a Savior for sinners, but it also explains how
God can save them consistently with the requirements of His character. As

Romans 1:17 tells us, in the Gospel is “the righteousness of God
revealed.” And this is precisely what is set forth here in John 8.
The entire incident is a most striking amplification and exemplification of

John 1:17: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came
by Jesus Christ.” The grace of God never conflicts with His law, but, on
the contrary, upholds its authority,
“As sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through
righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord”
(

Romans 5:21).
But as to how grace might reign “through righteousness” was a problem
which God alone could solve, and Christ’s solution of it here marks Him as
none other than “God manifest in flesh.” With what blessed propriety, then,
is this incident placed in the fourth Gospel, the special design of which is to
display the Divine glory of the Lord Jesus!
Perhaps a separate word needs to be said on verse 7, in connection with
which some have experienced a difficulty; and that is, Do these words of
Christ enunciate a principle which we are justified in using? If so, under
what circumstances? It is essential to bear in mind that Christ was not here
speaking as Judge, but as One in the place of the Servant. The principle
involved has been well stated thus,
“We have no right to say to an official who in condemning culprits
or in prosecuting them is simply discharging a public duty, ‘See that
your own hands be clean, and your own heart pure before you
condemn another’; but we have a perfect right to silence a private
individual who is officiously and not officially exposing another’s
guilt, by bidding him remember that he has a beam in his own eye
which he must first be rid of” (Dr. Dods).
The “scribes and Pharisees” who brought the guilty adulteress to Christ
must be viewed as representatives of their nation (as Nicodemus in John 3
and the impotent man in John 5). What, then, was the spiritual condition of
Israel at that time? It was precisely that of this guilty woman: an “evil and
adulterous generation” (

Matthew 12:37) Christ termed them. But they
were blinded by self-righteousness: they discerned not their awful
condition, and knew not that they, equally with the Gentiles, were under.15
the curse that had descended upon all from our father, Adam. Moreover;
they were under a deeper guilt than the Gentiles — they stood convicted of
the additional crime of having broken their covenant with the Lord. They
were, in fact, the unfaithful, the adulterous wife of Jehovah (see Ezekiel 16;
Hosea 2, etc.). What, then, did Jehovah’s law call for in such a case? The
answer to this question is furnished in Numbers 5, which sets forth “the
law of jealousy,” and describes the Divinely-ordered procedure for
establishing the guilt of an unfaithful wife.
We cannot here quote the whole of Numbers 5, but would ask the reader
to turn to and read verses 11-31 of that chapter. We quote now verses 17,
24, 27: — “And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of
the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it
into the water… And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water
that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into
her, and become bitter… And when he hath made her to drink the water,
then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass
against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into
her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and
the woman shall be a curse among her people!”
What light these verses cast upon our Lord’s dealings with the Pharisees
(representatives of Israel) here in John 8. “Water” is the well-known
emblem of the Word (

Ephesians 5:26, etc.). This water is here termed
“holy.” It was to be in an earthen vessel (cf.

2 Corinthians 4:7). This
water was to be mixed with “the dust which is in the floor of the
tabernacle.” — Thus the water becomes “bitter water,” and the woman
was made to drink it. The result would be (in case she was guilty) that her
guilt would be outwardly evidenced in the swelling of her belly (symbol of
pride) and the rotting of her thigh — her strength turned to corruption.
Now put these separate items together, and is it not precisely what we find
here in John 8? The Son of God is there incarnate, “made flesh,” an
“earthen vessel.” The “holy water” is seen in His holy words — “He that is
without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” In stooping down
and writing on the floor of the temple, He mingled “the dust” with it. As
He did this it became “bitter” to the proud Pharisees. In the conviction of
their consciences we see how “bitter,” and in going out, one by one,
abashed, we see the withering of their strength! And thus was the guilt of
Jehovah’s unfaithful wife made fully manifest!.16
The following questions bear upon the next chapter: —
1. What is meant by “the world” in verse 12? Do not jump to
conclusions.
2. What kind of light does “the world” enjoy? verse 12
3. What is “the light of life”? verse 12.
4. To what “witness of the Father” was Christ referring? verse 18.
5. What does “die in your sins” (verse 21) prove concerning the
Atonement?
6. What is the meaning of verse 31?
7. What does the truth make free from? verse 32..17
CHAPTER 29
CHRIST, THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

JOHN 8:12-32
The following is a Summary of the passage which is to be before us: —
1. Christ the Light of the world: verse 12.
2. The Pharisees’ denial: verse 13.
3. Christ enforces His claim to absolute Deity: verses 14-18.
4. The Pharisees’ question and Christ’s reply: verses 19, 20.
5. Christ’s solemn warning to the Pharisees: verses 21-24.
6. The Pharisees’ question and Christ’s reply: verses 25-29.
7. The many who “believed” and Christ’s warning to them; verses 30-
32.
The first division of John 8 forms a most striking and suitable introduction
to the first verse of our present lesson, which, in turn, supplies the key to
what follows in the remainder of the chapter. The Holy Spirit records here
one of the precious discourses of “The Wonderful Counsellor,” a discourse
broken by the repeated interruptions of His enemies. Christ announces
Himself as “the light of the world”, but this is prefaced by an incident
which gives wonderful force to that utterance.
As we saw in our last chapter, the first eleven verses of John 8 describe a
venomous assault made upon the Savior by the scribes and Pharisees. A
determined effort was made to discredit Him before the people. A woman
taken in adultery was brought, the penalty of the Mosaic law was defined,
and then the question was put to Christ, “But what sayest thou?” We are
not left to speculate as to their motive: the passage tells us “This they said,
tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.” Think of it! They
imagined that they could substantiate an accusation against the Lawgiver
Himself! What perversity: what blindness: what depravity! Yet how.18
effectively this serves as a dark back-ground on which to display the better,
“the light”! Nor is that all that this introduction effected.
In our exposition of these verses we intimated that what was there
presented to Christ was the problem — altogether too profound for
creature wisdom — how to harmonize justice and mercy. The woman was
guilty; of that there could be no doubt. The sentence of the law was plainly
defined. What reply, then, could Christ make to the open challenge, “What
sayest thou?” There is little need for us to repeat what was said in the
previous chapter, though the theme is a most captivating one. By symbolic
action our Lord showed that it was not the Divine intention for mercy to be
exercised at the expense of justice. He intimated that the law would be
enforced. But by writing on the ground the second time, He reminded His
would-be accusers that a shelter from the exposed law was planned, and
that a blood-sprinkled covering would protect the guilty one from its
accusing voice. Thus did the Redeemer intimate that God’s righteousness
would be magnified in the Divine method of saving sinners, and that His
holiness would shine forth with unsullied splendor. And “light” is the
emblem of holiness and righteousness! Fitting introduction, then, was this
for our Lord’s announcement of Himself as “the light of the world.”
But not only did the malice of the Lord’s enemies supply a dark
background to bring into welcome relief the outshining of the Divine Light;
not only did their attack supply Christ with an opportunity for Him to
manifest Himself as the Vindicator of God’s holiness and righteousness;
but we may also discover a further reason for the Holy Spirit describing
this incident at the beginning of our chapter. Following His symbolic action
of writing on the ground, the Lord uttered one brief sentence, and one
only, to His tempters, but that one was quite sufficient to rout them
completely. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at
her” was what He said. The effect was startling: “Being convicted by their
conscience” they “,,vent out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto
the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” It
was the holy “light” of God which smote their sin-darkened
understandings, and their departure demonstrated the power of that light!
Observe, too, the words of Christ to the adulterous woman: “Go,” He said,
not “in peace”; but “GO, and sin no more.” How that evidenced the
spotless purity of “the light”! Thus we see, once more, the great
importance of studying and weighing the context; for here, as everywhere,
it gives meaning to what follows..19
“Then spake Jesus again unto them” (

John 8:12). “Then” signifies after
the departure of the Pharisees and after the adulterous woman had gone.
“Then spake Jesus again unto them.” This takes us back to the second
verse of our chapter where we are told that in the early morning Christ
entered the temple, and, as all the people came unto Him, He sat down and
taught them. Now, after the rude interruption from certain of the scribes
and Pharisees, He resumed His teaching of the people, and spake “again
unto them.” And herein we may discover, once more, the perfections of the
God-man. The disagreeable interruption had in no wise disturbed His
composure. Though fully aware of the malignant design of the Pharisees,
He possessed His soul in patience. Without exhibiting the slightest
perturbation, refusing to be turned aside from the task He was engaged in,
He returned at once to the teaching of the people. How differently we act
under provocation! To us disturbances are only too frequently
perturbances. If only we realized that everything which enters our life is
ordered by God, and we acted in accord with this, then should we maintain
our composure and conduct ourselves with unruffled serenity. But only one
perfect life has been lived on this earth; and our innumerable imperfections
only serve to emphasize the uniqueness of that life.
“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the
world” (

John 8:12).
This is the second of the “I am” titles of Christ found in this fourth Gospel.
It calls for most careful consideration. We may observe, in the first place,
that this announcement by Christ was in full accord with the Old Testament
prophecies concerning the Messiah. Through Isaiah God said concerning
the Coming One,
“I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine
hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the
people, for a light of the Gentiles” (

Isaiah 42:6).
And again,
“And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to
raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I
will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be
my salvation unto the end of the earth” (

Isaiah 49:6).
And again, He was denominated “the sun of righteousness” who should
arise “with healing in his wings” or “beams” (

Malachi 4:2)..20
“I am the light of the world.” We may notice, in the second place, that
“light” is one of the three things which God is said to be. In

John 4:24
we are told, “God is spirit.” In

1 John 1:5, “God is light”; and in

1
John 4:8, “God is love.” These expressions relate to the nature of God,
what He is in Himself. Hence, when Christ affirmed “I am the light of the
world,” He announced His absolute Deity. Believers are said to be “light in
the Lord” (

Ephesians 5:8). But Christ Himself was “the light.”
But what is meant by “I am the light of the world”? Does this mean that
Christ is the Light of the whole human race, of every man and woman? If
so, does this prove that Universalism is true? Certainly not. The second
part of our verse disproves Universalism: it is only the one who “follows”
Christ that has “the light of life.” The one who does not “follow” Christ
remains in darkness. The words of Christ in

John 12:46 supply further
repudiation of Universalism: “I am come a light into the world, that
whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” But if “I am the
light of the world” does not teach Universalism, what does it mean? We
believe that its force will best be ascertained by comparing

John 1:4, 5,
9. As we have given an exposition of these verses in the second chapter of
Vol. I, we would ask the reader to turn to it. Suffice it now to say we
understand that “light” in these passages is not to be restricted to the
spiritual illumination enjoyed by believers, but is to be taken in its widest
signification. If

John 1:4 be linked with the preceding verse (as it should
be), it will be seen that the reference is to the relation sustained by the
Creator to “men.” The “light” which lightens every man that cometh into
the world is that which constitutes him a responsible being. Every rational
creature is morally enlightened. Christ is the Light of the world in the
widest possible sense, inasmuch as all creature intelligence and all moral
perception proceed from Him.
Perhaps it may be well to ask here, Why is it that “the world” is mentioned
so frequently in this fourth Gospel? The “world” occurs only fifteen times
in the first three Gospels added together; whereas in John it is found
seventy-seven times! Why is this? The answer is not far to seek. In this
fourth Gospel we have a presentation of what Christ is essentially in His
own person, and not what He was in special relation to the Jews, as in the
other Gospels. John treats of the Deity of Christ, and as God He is the
Creator of all (

John 1:3). and therefore the life and light of His
creatures (

John 1:4). It is true that in a number of instances “the world”
has a restricted meaning, but these are not difficult to determine: either the.21
context or parallel passages show us when the term is to be understood in
its narrower sense. The principle of interpretation is not an arbitrary one.
When something is predicated of “the world” which is true only of the
redeemed, then we know it is only the world of believers which is in view:
for instance, Christ giving (not proffering) life — here eternal life as the
context shows — unto the world (

John 6:33). But when there is
nothing that is predicated of “the world” which is true only of believers,
then it is “the world of the ungodly” (

2 Peter 2:5) which is in view.
“He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the
light of life” (

John 8:12).
At first glance this clause will seem, perhaps, to conflict with the definition
we have given of “light” in the first part of the verse. “I am the light of the
world” we understand to signify (in accord with

John 1:4, 5, 9), I am
the One who has bestowed intelligence and moral sensibility on all men.
But now Christ says (by necessary implication) that unless a man “follows”
Him he will “walk in darkness.” But instead of conflicting with what we
have said above, the second part of verse 12 will be found, on careful
reflection, to confirm it. “He that followeth me” said our Lord, “shall not
walk in darkness [Greek, “the darkness”], but shall,” shall what? “enjoy the
light”? no, “shall have the light of life.” These words point a contrast. In
the former sentence He spoke of Himself as the moral light of men; in the
second He refers to the spiritual light which is possessed by believers only.
This is clear from the expression used: he “shall have” not merely “light”
— which all rational creatures possess; but “he shall have the light of life,”
that is, of spiritual, Divine light, which is something possessed only by
those who “follow” Christ.
“He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of
life.” In these words, then, Christ defined the state of the natural man. The
unregenerate have “light”: they are capable of weighing moral issues; they
have a conscience which either “accuses or excuses them” (

Romans
2:15); and they have the capacity to recognize the innumerable evidences
which testify to the existence and natural attributes of the great Creator
(

Romans 1:19); so that “they are without excuse” (

Romans 1:20).
But spiritual light they do not have. Consequently, though they are
endowed with intelligence and moral discernment, spiritually, they are “in
the darkness.” And it was because of this that the Savior said, “He that
followeth me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.”.22
The necessary implication of these words is that the world is in spiritual
darkness. It was so two thousand years ago. The Greeks with all their
wisdom and the Romans with all their laws were spiritually in the dark.
And the world is the same today. Notwithstanding all the discoveries of
science and all the efforts to educate, Europe and America are in the dark.
The great crowds see not the true character of God, the worth of their
souls, the reality of the world to come. And Christ is the only hope. He has
risen like the sun, to diffuse life and light, salvation and peace, in the midst
of a dark world.
“He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of
life.” What is it to “follow” Christ? It is to commit ourselves unreservedly
to Him as our only Lord and Savior in doctrine and conduct (see

John
1:37 and contrast

John 10:5). A beautiful illustration (borrowed from
Bishop Ryle) of this is to be found in the history of Israel in the wilderness
as they followed the “cloud.” Just as the “cloud” led Israel from Egypt to
Canaan, so the Lord Jesus leads the believer from this world to heaven.
And to the one who really follows Christ the promise is, he shall not, like
those all around him, walk in darkness. “Light,” in Scripture, is sometimes
the emblem of true knowledge, true holiness, true happiness; while
“darkness” is the figure for ignorance and error, guilt and depravity,
privation and misery. Because the believer follows the One who is Light,
he does not grope his way in doubt and uncertainty, but he sees where he is
going, and not only so, he enjoys the light of God’s countenance. But this
is his experience only so far as he really “follows” Christ. Just as if it were
possible to follow the sun in its complete circuit, we should always be in
broad daylight, so the one who is actually following Christ shall not walk in
darkness.
“The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of
thyself; thy record is not true” (

John 8:13).
Christ had just made the fullest claim to Deity when He said “I am the light
of the world” the Pharisees could not understand Him to mean anything
less. Jehovah-Elohim was the God of light, as numerous passages in the
Old Testament plainly taught. When Jesus made this asseveration the
Pharisees therefore said, “Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not
true.” The force of their objection seems to be this: That God is the Light
of the world we fully allow, but when you avow this of yourself we cannot
accredit it; what you say is false..23
“The Pharisees therefore said unto him.” Evidently these were a different
company of Pharisees than those who had brought in the adulteress.
Enraged by the discomfiture of their brethren, their fellows insultingly said
to the Lord, Thy record is not true. They shrank from the Light. They
could not endure the holy purity of its beams. They desired only to
extinguish it. How solemnly this illustrated John l:5 — “The light shineth in
darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not?
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of
myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and
whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go;”
(

John 8:14).
Here the Lord tersely replies to the unbelieving denial of the Pharisees, and
ratifies what He had said just previously. Though My Divine glory is now
veiled, though at present I am not exercising My Divine prerogatives,
though I stand before you in servant form, nevertheless, when I affirmed
that I am the Light of the world I spoke the truth. My record is true
because “I know whence I came and whither I go,” which is a knowledge
possessed absolutely by none else. He had come from the Father in heaven,
and thither He would return; and therefore, as the Son, He could not give a
false witness. But as to His heavenly nature and character they were in
complete ignorance, and therefore altogether incompetent to form, and still
less to pass, a judgment.
“Though I bear record of myself yet my record is true.” Some have
experienced a difficulty in harmonizing this with what we read of in verse
31 — “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” But if each of
these statements be interpreted in strict accord with the context the
difficulty vanishes. In John 5 the Lord was proving that the witness or
record He bore was not in independence of the Father, but in perfect
accord therewith. The Father himself (

John 5:37) and the Scriptures
inspired by the Father (

John 5:39) also testified to the absolute Deity of
Christ. But here in John 8 the Lord Jesus is making direct reply to the
Pharisees who had said that His witness was false. This He denies, and
insists that it was true; and immediately after He appeals again to the
confirmatory witness of the Father (see

John 8:18).
“Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man” (

John 8:15)..24
We believe that there is a double thought here. When Christ said “Ye judge
after (according to) the flesh,” He meant, we think, first, You are deciding
My claims according to what you see; you are judging according to
outward appearances. Because I am in the likeness of sinful flesh you deem
it impossible for Me to be “the light of the world.” But appearances are
deceptive. I do not form My judgments thus: 1 look on the heart, and see
things as they actually are. But again; when Christ said: “Ye judge after the
flesh,” this was to affirm that they were incapable of judging Him. They
adopted the world’s principles, and judged according to carnal reasoning.
Because of this they were incapable of discerning the Divine nature of His
mission and message.
“I judge no man” has been variously interpreted. Many understand it to
signify that Christ here reminded His critics that He was not then exercising
His judicial prerogatives. It is regarded as being parallel with the last clause
of

John 12:47. But we think it is more natural, and better suited to the
context, to supply an ellipsis, and understand Christ here to mean, I do not
judge any man after the flesh; when I judge, it is according to spiritual and
Divine principles. The Greek word signifies “to determine, to form an
estimate, to arrive at a decision,” and here it has precisely the same force in
each clause. When Christ said to these Pharisees, “Ye judge after the
flesh,” He did not refer to a judicial verdict, for He was not then replying
to some formal pronouncement of the Sanhedrin. Instead, He meant, You
have formed your estimate of Me after the flesh, but not so do I form My
estimates.
“And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I
and the Father that sent me” (

John 8:16).
This confirms what we have just said upon the last clause of the previous
verse. “If I judge,” or better “when I judge” My judgment is true. You may
determine according to carnal principles; but I do not. I act on spiritual
principles. I judge not according to appearances, but according to reality.
My judgment is according to truth, for it is the judgment of God — “I am
not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.” This was a full claim to
Deity. It affirmed the absolute oneness of the Son with the Father. This
statement of Christ’s is parallel with the one He made later: “I and my
Father are one” (

John 10:30). He speaks here in John 8 of the Divine
wisdom which is common to the Father and the Son. This being so, how
could His judgment be anything but true?.25
“It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is
true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent
me beareth witness of me” (

John 8:17, 18).
Here Christ repeats in another form what He had just affirmed. HIS
testimony was not unsupported. The Mosaic law required two witnesses to
establish the truth. The present case was not one where this law was
strictly applicable; nevertheless, the circumstances of it were in fullest
accord therewith. Christ bore personal witness to His Divine person and
mission, and the Father also bore witness thereto. How the Father bore
witness to the Son was before us in the fifth chapter of this Gospel. He
bore witness to Him in the prophecies of the Old Testament, which were
now so gloriously fulfilled in His character, teaching, actions, and even in
His very rejection by men. The Father had borne witness to the Son
through the testimony of His servant, John the Baptist (see John 1). He had
borne witness to Him at the Jordan, on the occasion of His baptism. Thus
by the principles of their own law these Pharisees were condemned. Two
witnesses established the truth, but here were two Witnesses, the Father
and the Son, and yet they rejected the truth! It was not, as several of the
commentators have thought, that Christ was here appealing to the law in
order to vindicate Himself. His manifest purpose was to condemn them,
and that is why He says, “your law” rather than “the law.”
“Then said they unto Him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered,
Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should
have known my Father also” (

John 8:19).
How the Light revealed the hidden things of darkness! Christ had appealed
to the testimony of the Father, but so obtuse were these Pharisees, they
asked, “Where is thy Father?” In our Lord’s answer to them we are shown
once more how that none can know the Father save through and by the
Son. As He declared on another occasion,
“Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to
whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (

Matthew 11:27).
“These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the
temple; and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet
come” (

John 8:20).
“The treasury ‘was in the forecourt of the women, in which were
placed thirteen bronze chests, to receive the taxes and free-will.26
offerings of the people. The mention of the treasury here would be
quite in keeping with the genuineness of the history of the woman
taken in adultery. To the court of the women only could she have
been brought to meet the Lord. Of these chests, nine were for legal
payment of the worshippers, and four for free-will offerings”
(C.E.S. from Barclay’s Talmud).
“And no man laid hands on him: for his hour was not yet come.” This
plainly intimates that the Pharisees were greatly incensed at what Christ
had said, and had it been possible they would have at once subjected Him
to violence. But it was not possible, and never would have been unless God
had withdrawn His restraining hand. It is indeed striking to note how this
feature is repeated again and again in the fourth Gospel, see

John 7:30;
7:44; 8:59; and 10:39, etc. These passages show that men were unable to
work out their evil designs until God permitted them to do so. They
demonstrate that God is complete master of all; and they prove that the
sufferings Christ did undergo were endured voluntarily.
“Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek
me, and shall die in your sins” (

John 8:21).
The word “again” looks back to

John 7:33, 34, where on a previous
occasion Christ had made a similar statement. “I go my way” signifies I
shall very shortly leave you. It was a solemn word of warning. “And ye
shall seek me, and shall die in your sins.” Christ here addressed these
Pharisees as the representatives of the nation, and looked forward to the
sore trials before it. In but a few years, Israel would suffer an affliction far
heavier than any they had experienced before; and when that time came,
they would seek the delivering help of their promised Messiah, but it would
be in vain. Having refused the Light they would continue in the darkness.
Having despised the Savior, they should “die in their sins.” Having rejected
the Son of God, it would be impossible for them to come whither He had
gone.
“Ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins.” It is unspeakably solemn that
these words have a present application. How dreadful! that the Savior may
be sought, but sought in vain. A man may have religious feelings about
Christ, even weep at the thought of His Cross, and yet have no saving
acquaintance with Him. Sickness, the fear of death, a serious financial
reverse, the drying up of creature — sources of comfort — these
frequently draw out much religiousness. Under a little pressure a man will.27
say his prayers, read his Bible, become active in church work, profess to
seek Christ, and become quite a different character; but only too often such
an one is but reformed, and not transformed. And frequently this is made
apparent in this world. Let the pressure be removed, let health return, let
there be a change of circumstances, and how often we behold the zealous
professor returning to his old ways. Such an one may have “sought” Christ,
but because his motive was wrong, because it was not the effect of a deep
conviction of being lost and undone, his seeking was in vain.
“Ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins.” Far more solemn is the
application of these words to a class of people today which we greatly fear
is by no means a small one. How many there are who, under the superficial
and temporary influence of the modern evangelistic meetings, come
forward to the front seeking Christ. For the moment, many of them, no
doubt, are in earnest; and yet the sequel proves that they sought in vain.
Why is this? Two answers may be returned.
First, with some, it is because they were not in dead earnest. Of old God
said,
“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all
your heart” (

Jeremiah 29:13).
Second, with others, and with by far the greater number, it is because they
do not seek in the right place. The seeker in the average meeting is
exhorted to “lay his all upon the altar,” or is told that he must “pray
through.” But Christ is not to be found by either of these means. “Search
the Scriptures” was the word of the Savior Himself, and the reason given
was, “they are they which testify of me.” In the volume of the book it is
written of Christ. It is in the written Word that the incarnate Word is to be
found.
“Ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins.” These words will yet have a
further application to a coming day, when it will be too late to find Christ.
Then the “door” will be shut. Then sinners will call upon God but He will
not answer; they shall seek the Lord, but they shall not find Him
(

Proverbs 1:28, etc.).
“Whither I go, ye cannot come” (

John 8:21).
Not “ye shall not come,” but “ye cannot come.” Cannot because the
holiness of God makes it impossible: that which is corrupt and vile cannot.28
dwell with Him; there can be no communion between light and darkness.
Cannot because the righteousness of God makes it impossible. Sin must be
punished; the penalty of the broken law must be enforced; and for the
reprobate “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Cannot because
they have no character suited to the place whither Christ has gone. In the
very nature of the case every man must go to “his own place” (

Acts
1:25), the place for which he is fitted. If, by grace, he has the nature of
God, then later on he will go and dwell with Him (

John 13:36); but if he
passes out of this world “dead in sins” then, of necessity, he will yet be cast
into the Lake of Fire, “which is the second death” (

Revelation 20:14). If
a man dies “in his sins” he cannot enter heaven. How completely this
shatters the “Larger Hope”!
“Then said the jews, Will he kill Himself? because he saith, Whither
I go, ye cannot come?” (

John 8:22).
The Pharisees replied with profane levity, and with an impious sneer. This
is frequently the resort of a defeated opponent: when unable to refute solid
argument, he will avail himself of ridicule. With what infinite grace did Our
Lord forbear with His enemies!
“And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye
are of this world; I am not of this world” (

John 8:23).
There seems to be a double thought conveyed by these words. First, Christ
pointed out the reason or cause why they understood not His words and
received not His witness. There was an infinite gulf separating Him from
them: they were from beneath, He was from above. Second, Christ
explained why it was that whither He was going they could not come. They
belonged to two totally different spheres: they were of the world, He was
not of the world. The friendship of the world is enmity against God, how
then could they who were not only in the world, but of it, enter heaven,
which was His home?
“I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye
believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (

John 8:24).
How terrible is the end of unbelief! The one who persists in his rejection of
the Christ of God will die in his sins, unpardoned, unfit for heaven,
unprepared to meet God] How unspeakably solemn is this! How little are
we impressed by these fearful words, “die in your sins” — true of the vast
majority of our fellows as they pass out of this world into an hopeless.29
eternity. And how sadly mistaken are they who say that it is harsh and
uncharitable to speak of the future destiny of unbelievers. The example of
Christ should teach us better. He did not hesitate to press this awful truth,
nor should we. In the light of God’s Word it is criminal to remain silent. In
the judgment of the writer this is the one truth which above all others needs
to be pressed today. Men will not turn to Christ until they recognize their
imminent danger of the wrath to come.
“Ye shall die in your sins.” This is one of many verses which exposes a
modern error concerning the Atonement. There are some who teach that
on the Cross Christ bore all the sins of all men. They insist that the entire
question of sin was dealt with and settled at Calvary. They declare that the
only thing which will now send any man to hell, is his rejection of Christ.
But such teaching is entirely unscriptural. Christ bore all the sins of
believers, but for the sins of unbelievers no atonement was made. And one
of the many proofs of this is furnished by

John 8:24: “Ye shall die in
your sins” could never have been said if the Lord Jesus removed all sins
from before God.
f9
“Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto
them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning”
(

John 8:25).
We believe that this is given much more accurately in the R.V., especially
the marginal rendering: “They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? Jesus
said unto them, Altogether that which I also speak unto you.” This was a
remarkable utterance. The Pharisees had objected that Christ’s witness of
Himself was not true (verse 13). The Lord replied that His witness was
true, and He proved it by an appeal to the corroborative witness of the
Father. Now they ask, “Who art thou?” And the incarnate Son of God
answered, I am essentially and absolutely that which I have declared myself
to be. I have spoken of “light”: I am that Light. I have spoken of “truth”: I
am that Truth. I am the very incarnation, personification, exemplification of
them. Wondrous declaration is this! None but He could really say, I am
Myself that of which I am speaking to you. The child of God may speak
the truth and walk in the truth, but he is not the Truth itself. A Christian
may let his light “shine,” but he is not the Light itself. But Christ was, and
therein we perceive His exalted uniqueness. As we read in

1 John 5:20,
“We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an.30
understanding, that we may know him that is true,” not “him who taught
the truth,” but “him that is true.”
“I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me
is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of
him” (

John 8:26).
As nearly as we can gather, the force of this verse is as follows: ‘Your
incredulity is very reprehensible, and your insulting sneers deserve the
severest censure, but I forbear.’ If Christ had dealt with these insulting
opponents as they thoroughly merited, not only would He have upbraided
them, but He would have passed an immediate sentence of condemnation
upon them. Instead of doing so, He contented Himself by affirming once
more that the witness He bore of Himself was true, because it was in the
most perfect accord with what the Father Himself had said. Perfect
example for us. Whenever the servant of Christ is criticized and challenged
because of the message he brings, let him learn of his Master, who was
meek and lowly in heart. Instead of passing sentence of condemnation on
your detractors, simply press upon them the eternal veracity of Him in
whose name you speak.
“They understood not that he spake to them of the Father”
(

John 8:27)
O the blinding power of prejudice; the darkness of unbelief! How solemnly
this reveals the woeful condition that the natural man is in. Unable to
understand even when the Son of God was preaching to them! “Except a
man be born again he cannot see.” And this is the condition of every man
by nature. Spiritually, the unregenerate American is in precisely the same
darkness that the heathen are in, for both are in the darkness of death. Men
need something more than external light; they need inward illumination.
One may sit all his life under the soundest Gospel ministry, and at the end,
understand no more with the heart than those in Africa who have never
heard the Gospel. Let these solemn words be duly weighed — “they
understood not,” understood not the words which none other than the Son
of God was saying to them! Then let every reader who knows that he is
saved, praise God fervently because He “hath given US in understanding,
that we may know him that is true” (

1 John 5:20).
“Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of
man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of.31
myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things”
(

John 8:28).
His “lifting up” referred to His approaching death and the manner of it, see

John 12:32, 33. “Then shall ye know that I am he” intimated that the
crucifixion would be accompanied and followed by such manifestations of
His Divine glory that He would be fully vindicated, and many would be
convinced that He was indeed the Messiah, and that He had done and said
only what He had been commissioned by the Father to do and say. How
strikingly was this word of Christ verified on the day of Pentecost!
Thousands, then, of the very ones who had cried, “Crucify him”, were
brought to believe on Him as “both Lord and Christ.”
“And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone;
for I do always those things that please him” (

John 8:29).
“Whatever opinion men might form of His doctrines or conduct, He
knew that in all He said, and in all He did, He was the Father’s elect
servant upheld and delighted in by Him — His beloved Son, in
whom He was well pleased” (Dr. John Brown).
Men who were blinded by Satan might regard Him as an impostor, and as a
blasphemer, but He knew that the Father approved and would yet vindicate
Him fully. How could it be otherwise when He did always those things that
pleased Him? — a claim none other could truthfully make.
“As he spake these words, many believed on him” (

John 8:30).
This does not mean that they believed to the saving of their souls, the
verses which follow evidence they had not. Probably nothing more is here
signified than that they were momentarily impressed so that their enmity
against Him was, temporarily, allayed. Many were evidently struck by what
they observed in the demeanor of Christ-bearing the perverseness of His
enemies so patiently, speaking of so ignominious a death with such holy
composure, and expressing so positively His sense of the Father’s
approbation. Nevertheless, the impression was but a fleeting one, and their
believing on Him amounted to no more than asking,
“When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which
this man hath done?” (

John 7:31)..32
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye
continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (

John
8:31).
Our Lord here describes one of the marks of a genuine disciple of His.
Continuance in His word is not a condition of discipleship, rather is it the
manifestation of it. It is this, among other things, which distinguishes a true
disciple from one who is merely a professor. These words of Christ supply
us with a sure test. It is not how a man begins, but how he continues and
ends. It is this which distinguishes the stony ground hearer from the
goodground hearer — see

Matthew 13:20, 23, and contrast

Luke
8:15. To His apostles Christ said “He that endureth to the end shall be
saved” (

Matthew 10:22). Not, we repeat, that enduring to the end is a
condition of salvation, it is an evidence or proof that we have already
passed from death unto life. So writes the apostle John of some who had
apostatized from the faith:
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had
been of us, they would have continued with us,” etc. (

1 John
2:19).
“If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” The word
“indeed” signifies truly, really, genuinely so. By using this word Christ here
intimated that those referred to in the previous verse, who are said to have
“believed on him,” were not “genuine disciples.” The one who has been
truly saved will not fall away and be lost; the one who does fall away and is
lost, was never truly saved. To “continue” in Christ’s word is to “keep his
word” (

Revelation 3:8). It is to hold fast whatever Christ has said; it is
to perseveringly follow out the faith we profess to its practical end.
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”
(

John 8:32).
“To know the truth is something more definite than to know what
is true; it is to understand that revelation with regard to the
salvation of men, through the mediation of the incarnate Son, which
is so often in the New Testament called, by way of eminence, ‘the
truth’, — the truth of truths, — the most important of all truths, —
the truth of which He is full, — the truth that came by Him, as the
law came by Moses, — the truth, the reality in opposition to the
shadows, the emblems, of the introductory economy, — what Paul.33
termed, ‘the word of the truth of the Gospel’,

Colossians 1:5”
(Dr. John Brown).
“The truth shall make you free.” Note the striking connection between
these three things:
(1) “continue in my word,” verse 31;
(2) “ye shall know the truth,” verse 32;
(3) “the truth shall make you free,” verse 32.
This order cannot be changed. The truth gives spiritual liberty; it frees from
the blinding power of Satan (

2 Corinthians 4:4). It delivers from the
darkness of spiritual death (

Ephesians 4:18). It emancipates from the
prison-house of sin (

Isaiah 61:1). Further enlargement upon the
character and scope Of spiritual freedom will be given when we come to
verse 36. Let the student first work on the following questions: —
1. To what extent is the sinner the “servant” (bondslave) of sin? verse
34.
2. What does verse 36 teach about the will of the natural man?
3. What is the difference between Abraham’s “children” (verse 39), and
his “seed” (verse 33)?
4. What is the meaning of verse 43?
5. What is the force of “of God” in verse 47?
6. What is the meaning of verse 51?
7. To what was Christ referring in verse 56?.34
CHAPTER 30
CHRIST, THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
(CONCLUDED)

JOHN 8:33-59
The passage for our present consideration continues and completes the
portion studied in our last chapter. It brings before us Christ as the Light
revealing the hidden things of darkness, exposing the pretensions of
religious professors, and making manifest the awful depths of human
depravity. We shall miss that in it which is of most importance and value if
we localize it, and see in these verses nothing more than the record of a
conversation between the Lord and men long since past and gone. We need
to remind ourselves constantly that the Word of God is a living Word,
depicting things as they now are, describing the opposition and activities of
the carnal mind as they obtain today, and giving counsel which is strictly
pertinent to ourselves. It is from this viewpoint we shall discuss this closing
section of John 8. Below we give a Summary of our passage: —
1. Bondage and liberty: verses 33-36.
2. Abraham’s seed and Abraham’s children: verses 37-40.
3. Children of the Devil and children of God: verses 41-47.
4. Christ dishonored by men, the Father honored by Christ: verses 48-
50.
5. Life and death: verses 51-55.
6. Abraham and Christ: verses 56-58.
7. The Savior leaves the Temple: verse 59.
“They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in
bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?”
(

John 8:33).
This was the reply made by the Jews to the words of the Lord recorded in
the previous verses. There we find Him describing the fundamental.35
characteristic of a genuine disciple of His: he is one who continues in
Christ’s word (verse 31, re-read our comments thereon). The one who
continues in the Word shall know the truth, and the truth shall make him
free (verse 32). But to be told about being made free is something the
natural man does not like to hear. The plain implication is that before he
knows the truth he is in bondage. And such indeed is the case, little as men
realize or recognize the fact. There are four things about themselves which
are particularly hateful, because so humbling, to the unregenerate.
First, that they are destitute of righteousness (

Isaiah 64:6) and
goodness (

Romans 7:18), and therefore “unclean” (

Isaiah 64:6)
and “vile” (

Job 40:4).
Second, that they are destitute of wisdom from

John 3:11 and
therefore full of “vanity” (

Psalm 39:5) and “foolishness”
(

Proverbs 22:15).
Third, that they are destitute of “strength” from verse 6 and “power”
(

Isaiah 40:29), and therefore unable to do anything good of or from
themselves (

John 15:5).
Fourth, that they are destitute of freedom (

Isaiah 61:1), and
therefore in a state of bondage (

2 Peter 2:19).
The condition of the natural man is far, far worse than he imagines, and far
worse than the average preacher and Sunday school teacher supposes. Man
is a fallen creature, totally depraved, with no soundness in him from the
sole of his foot even unto the head (

Isaiah 1:6). He is completely under
the dominion of sin (

John 8:34), a bond-slave to divers lusts (

Titus
3:3), so that he “cannot cease from sin” (

2 Peter 2:14). Moreover, the
natural man is thoroughly under the dominion of it. He is taken captive by
the Devil at his will (

2 Timothy 2:26). He walks according to the Prince
of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of
disobedience (

Ephesians 2:2). He fulfills the lusts of his father, the Devil
(

John 8:44). He is completely dominated by Satan’s power
(

Colossians 1:13). And from this thraldom nothing but the truth of God
can deliver.
Ye shall be made free (

John 8:33). As already stated, this signifies that
the natural man is in bondage. But this is a truth that the natural man
cannot tolerate. The very announcement of it stirs up the enmity within
him. Tell the sinner that there is no good thing in him, and he will not.36
believe you; but tell him that he is completely the slave of sin and the
captive of Satan, that he cannot think a godly thought of himself (

2
Corinthians 3:5), that he cannot receive God’s truth (

1 Corinthians
2:14), that he cannot believe (

John 12:39), that he cannot please God
(

Romans 8:8), that he cannot come to Christ (

John 6:44), and he
will indignantly deny your assertions. So it was here in the passage before
us. When Christ said “the truth shall make you free”, the Jews replied “We
be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man.”
The proud boast of these Jews was utterly unfounded; nothing could have
been further from the truth. The very first view which Scripture gives us of
Abraham’s seed after they became a nation, is in bitter and cruel bondage
(Exodus 2). Seven times over in the book of Judges we read of God
delivering or selling Israel into the hands of the Canaanites. The seventy-years
captivity in Babylon also gave the lie to the words of these Jews, and
even at the time they spoke, the Romans were their masters. It was
therefore the height of absurdity and a manifest departure from the truth
for them to affirm that the seed of Abraham had never been in bondage.
Yet no more untenable and erroneous was this than the assertions of
present-day errorists who prate so loudly of the freedom of the natural
man, and who so hot]y deny that his will is enslaved by sin. “How sayest
thou, Ye shall be made free?”: equally ignorant are thousands in the
religious world today. Deliverance from the Law, emancipation from bad
habits they have heard about, but real spiritual freedom they understand
not, and cannot while they remain in ignorance about the universal bondage
of sin.
“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever
committeth sin is the servant [bond-slave] of sin” (

John 8:34).
In saying “whosoever… is the bondslave” Christ was intimating to these
Jews that they were no exception to the general rule, even though they
belonged to the favored seed of Abraham. Christ was not speaking of a
particular class of men more lawless than their fellows, but was affirming
that which is true of every man in his natural condition. “Whosoever
committeth sin,” refers to the regular practice, the habitual course of a
man’s life. Here is one thing which distinguishes the Christian from the
non-Christian. The Christian sins, and sins daily; but the non-Christian does
nothing but sin. The Christian sins, but he also repents; moreover, he does
good works, and brings forth the fruit of the Spirit. But the life of the.37
unregenerate man is one unbroken course of sin. Sin, we say, not crime.
Water cannot rise above its own level. Being a sinner by nature, man is a
sinner by practice, and cannot be anything else. A corrupt tree cannot bring
forth good fruit. A poisoned fountain cannot send forth sweet waters.
Because the sinner has no spiritual nature within him, because he is totally
depraved and in complete bondage to sin, because he does nothing for
God’s glory, every action is polluted, every deed unacceptable to the Holy
One.
“Whosoever committeth sin is the bond-slave of sin.” How different are
God’s thoughts from ours! The man of the world imagines that to become
a Christian means to forego his freedom. He supposes that he would be
fettered with a lot of restrictions which nullified his liberty. But these very
suppositions only evidence the fact that the god of this world (Satan) has
blinded his mind (

2 Corinthians 4:4). The very opposite from what he
supposes is really the case. It is the one out of Christ, not the one in Christ,
who is in bondage — in “the bond of iniquity” (

Acts 8:23). He is
impelled by the downward trend of his nature, and the very freedom which
the sinner supposes he is exercising in the indulgence of his evil
propensities is only additional proof that he is the “bond-slave of sin.” The
love of self, the love of the world, the love of money, the love of pleasure
— these are the tyrants which rule over all who are out of Christ. Happy
the one who is conscious of such bondage, for this is the first step toward
liberty.
“And the bond-slave abideth not in the house forever: but the Son
abideth ever” (

John 8:35).
The commentators are far from being in agreement in their interpretation of
this verse, though we think there is little room for differences of opinion
upon it. The “bond-slave” is the same character referred to in the previous
verse — the one who makes a constant practice of sinning. Such an one
abideth not in the house forever — the “house” signifies family, as in the
House of Jacob, the House of Israel, the House of God (

Hebrews 3:5,
6). We take it that our Lord was simply enunciating a general principle or
stating a well-known fact, namely, that a slave has only a temporary place
in a family. The application of this principle to those He was addressing is
obvious. The Jews insisted that they were Abraham’s seed (verse 32), that
they belonged to the favored family, whose were the covenants and
promises. But, says our Lord, the mere fact that you are the natural.38
descendants of Abraham, gives you no title to the blessings which belong
to his spiritual children. This was impossible while they remained the bond-slaves
of sin. Unless they were “made free” they would soon be cut off
even from the temporary place of external privilege.
“But the Son abideth ever.” These words point a contrast. The slave’s
place was uncertain, and at best temporary, but the Son’s place in the
family is permanent — no doubt the word “abideth” here (as everywhere)
suggests the additional thought of fellowship. The history of Abraham’s
family well illustrated this fact, and probably Christ has the case of Ishmael
and Isaac in mind when He uttered these words. “The Son abideth ever.”
Though this statement enunciated a general principle — some-thing that is
true of every member of God’s family — yet the direct reference was
clearly to Christ Himself, as the next verse makes plain, for “the Son” of
verse 36 is clearly restricted to the Lord Jesus.
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”
(

John 8:36).
The “therefore” here settles the application of the previous verse. “The
Son” is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, and He is able to make free
the bond-slaves of sin because He is the Son. The Son is no bond-slave in
the Father’s family, but He is one in purpose and power with the Father;
He is in perfect fellowship with Him, and therefore He is fully competent to
liberate those under the tyranny of sin and the dominion of Satan. To make
His people “free” was the central object in view in the Divine incarnation.
The first ministerial utterance of Christ was to the effect that the Spirit of
the Lord had anointed Him to preach “deliverance to the captives… to set
at liberty them that are bruised” or “bound” (

Luke 4:18). And so
thoroughly are men under the thraldom of sin, so truly do they love
darkness rather than light, they have to be made free. (cf. “maketh me to lie
down” Psalm 23.)
“Ye shall be free indeed.” Free from what? This brings before us the truth
of Christian freedom: a most important subject, but one too wide to discuss
here at any length.
f10
To sum up in the fewest possible words, we would
say that Christian liberty, spiritual liberty, consists of this:
First, deliverance from the condemnation of sin, the penalty of the law,
the wrath of God —

Isaiah 42:7; 60:1;

Romans 8:1..39
Second, deliverance from the power of Satan —

Acts 26:18;

Colossians 1:13;

Hebrews 2:14, 15.
Third, from the bondage of sin —

Romans 6:14, 18.
Fourth, from the authority of man —

Galatians 4:8, 9; 5:1;

Colossians 2:20-22. So much for the negative side; now a word on
the positive.
Christians are delivered from the things just mentioned that they may be
free to serve God. The believer is “the Lord’s freeman” (

1 Corinthians
7:22), not Christ’s freeman, observe, but “the Lord’s,” a Divine title which
ever emphasizes our submission to His authority. When a sinner is saved he
is not free to follow the bent of his old nature, for that would be
lawlessness. Spiritual freedom is not license to do as I please, but
emancipation from the bondage of sin and Satan that I may do as I ought:
“that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him
without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our
life” (

Luke 1:74, 75).

Romans 6:16-18 and 22 contains a Divine
summary of the positive side of this subject: let the reader give it careful
and prayerful study.
“I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because
my word hath no place in you” (

John 8:37).
Our Lord’s object in these words is evident. He was further emphasizing
the fact that though these Jews were the seed of Abraham, they certainly
were not the children of God. Proof of this was furnished by the awful
enmity then at work in their hearts. They sought (earnestly desired) to kill
Him who was the Son. Certainly then, they were not God’s children.
Moreover, His word had no place in them — the Greek word translated
“no place” signifies no entrance. They received it not (contrast

1
Thessalonians 2:13). They were merely wayside hearers. It is this which
distinguishes, essentially, a saved man from a lost one. The former is one
who receives with meekness the engrafted Word (

James 1:21). He hides
that Word in his heart (

Psalm 119:11). The believer gives that Word the
place of trust, of honor, of rule, of love. The man of the world gives the
Word no place because it is too spiritual, too holy, too searching. He is
filled with his own concerns, and is too busy and crowded to give the
Word of God a real place of attention. Unspeakably solemn are those awful
words of Christ to all such:.40
“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that
judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him
in the last day” (

John 12:48).
“I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that
which ye have seen with your father” (

John 8:38).
Christ further emphasizes the infinite gulf which separated these Jews from
Himself. In the previous verse He had furnished proof that these men who
were the seed of Abraham certainly were not the children of God. Here He
leads up to their real parentage. In the first part of this verse our Lord
insists that the doctrine He taught was what He had received from the
Father, and its very nature and tendency clearly showed who His Father
was. Its spirituality evidenced that it proceeded from the thrice Holy One:
its unworldliness testified to the fact that it came from Him who is Spirit:
its benignity showed it was from Him who is Love. Such was His Father.
“Ye do that which ye have seen with your father.’…. Your actions
tell who your father is, as My doctrine tells who My Father is.’ In
both cases ‘father’ here seems to mean spiritual model — the being
after whom the character is fashioned — the being, under whose
influences the moral and spiritual frame is formed. The thought that
lies at the bottom of this representation is, ‘Men’s sentiments and
conduct are things that are formed, and indicate the character of
him who forms them. Your actions, which are characterized by
falsehood and malignity, distinctly enough prove, that, in a moral
and spiritual point of view, neither Abraham, nor the God of
Abraham, is your father. The former of your spiritual character is
not in heaven, wherever else he may be foundí” (Dr. J. Brown).
“They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father”
(

John 8:39).
These Jews surely had a suspicion of whither our Lord’s remarks in the
previous verse were pointing; but they pretended not to observe, and
sought to represent Him as a calumniator of Abraham. When they said,
“Abraham is our father,” it was but the self-righteousness of the natural
man exhibiting itself. They were contrasting themselves from the heathen.
‘The heathen are in bondage we allow; but You are now talking to those
who belong to the covenant people: we belong to the Jewish Church,’ this
was the force of their remarks. It is not difficult to perceive how well this.41
describes what is a matter of common observation today. Let the servant of
God preach in the churches of this land on the ruined and lost condition of
the natural man; let him faithfully apply his message to those present; and
the result will be the same as here. The great mass of religious professors,
who have a form of godliness but know nothing and manifest nothing of its
power, will hotly resent being classed with those on the outside. They will
tell you, We belong to the true Church, we are Christians, not infidels.
“Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do
the works of Abraham” (

John 8:39).
Very simple, yet very searching was this. The “seed” of Abraham Christ
acknowledged them to be (verse 37), but the “children” of Abraham they
certainly were not. Natural descent from their illustrious progenitor did not
bring them into the family of God. Abraham is “the father” only of “them
that believe” (

Romans 4:11). This distinction is specifically drawn in

Romans 9:7: “Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they
all children.” “Children” of Abraham refers to a spiritual relationship;
“seed” of Abraham is only a fleshly tie, and “the flesh profiteth nothing”
(

John 6:63).
“If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.” Here
was and still is the decisive test. Natural descent counts for nothing, it is a
spiritual relationship with God which is the great desideratum. The
profession of our lips amounts to nothing at all if it be not confirmed by the
character of our lives. Talk is cheap; it is our works, what we do, which
evidences what we really are. A tree is known by its fruits. The “works of
Abraham” were works of faith and obedience — faith in God and
submission to His Word. But His Word had “no place in them.” Idle then
was their boast. Equally so is that of multitudes today, who say Lord,
Lord, but do not the things which He has commanded.
“But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth,
which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham” (

John 8:40).
“Abraham acted not thus. If ye were Abraham’s children in a
spiritual sense — if you were conformed to his character — you
would imitate his conduct. But your conduct is the very reverse of
his. You are desiring and plotting the murder of a man who never
injured you, whose only crime is that He has made known to you
important and salutary, but unpalatable truth. Abraham never did.42
anything like this. He readily received every communication made
from heaven. He never inflicted injury on any man, far less on a
Divine messenger, who was merely doing his duty. No, no! If
children are like their parents, Abraham is not your father. He
whose deeds you do, he is your father” (Dr. J. Brown).
“Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not
born of fornication; we have one Father, even God” (

John
8:41).
When the Jews replied, “We be not born of fornication,’’ we take it that
they meant, ‘We are not bastard Jews, whose blood has been contaminated
with idolatrous alliances, as is the case with the Samaritans.’ It seems likely
that this word was provoked by what our Lord had said in verse 35 — “the
bond-slave abideth not in the house,” which was an oblique reference to
Ishmael. If so, their words signified, ‘We are genuine descendants of
Abraham; we are children not of the concubine, but of the wife.’
“We have one Father, even God.” How this same claim is being made on
every side today! Those in far-distant lands may be heathen; but America is
a Christian country. Such is the view which is held by the great majority of
church members. The universal Fatherhood of God and the universal
brotherhood of man are the favorite dogmas of Christendom: “We have
one Father, even God” is the belief and boast of the great religious masses.
How this justifies our opening remark, that the passage before us is not to
be limited to a conversation which took place nineteen hundred years ago,
but also contains a representation of human nature as it exists today,
manifesting the same spirit of self-righteousness, appealing to the same
false ground of confidence, and displaying the same enmity against the
Christ of God.
“Jesus said unto them, If God were your father, ye would love me:
for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself,
but he sent me” (

John 8:42).
This was an indirect but plain denial that God was their Father. If they
were the children of God they would love Him, and if they loved Him they
would most certainly love His only begotten Son, for
“he that loveth him that begat, loveth him that is begotten of him”
(

1 John 5:1)..43
But they did not love Christ. Though He was the image of the invisible
God, the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, they
despised and rejected Him. They were the bond-slaves of sin (verse 34);
Christ’s Word had no place in them (verse 37); they sought to kill Him
(verse 40). Their boast therefore was an empty one; their claim utterly
unfounded.
“Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot
hear my word” (

John 8:43).
Christ was here addressing Himself to their consciences. His question —
no doubt there was a pause before He answered it — ought to have
exercised their hearts. Why do you not understand My speech? You claim
to be the children of the Father, why then are My words so obscure and
mysterious to you? My language is that of the Father, surely then there is
something wrong somewhere! The same question comes with equal
pertinency to every one who hears the Word of God today. If that Word
comes to me as that of an unknown tongue, then this shows I am a stranger
to God. If 1 understand not His speech, I cannot be one of His children.
That does not mean, of course, that I shall be able to fathom the infinite
depths of His wonderful Word. But, speaking characteristically, if I
understand not His speech — which is addressed not to the intellect but to
the heart — then there is every reason why I should gravely inquire as to
the cause of this.
“Even because ye cannot hear my word.” The word “hear” (an Hebrew
idiom) signifies to receive and believe — compare

John 9:27; 10:3;
12:47;

Acts 3:22, 23, etc. And why was it that these Jews “could not
hear” His Word? It was because they were children in whom was no faith
(

Deuteronomy 32:20). It was because they had no ear for God, no heart
for His Word, no desire to learn His will. Proof positive was this that they
were dead in trespasses and sins, and therefore not children of God.
Unspeakably solemn is this. Hearing God’s Word is an attitude of heart.
We speak now not of the Divine side, for true it is that the Lord Himself
must prepare the heart (

Proverbs 16:1) and give the hearing ear
(

Proverbs 20:12). But from the human side, man is fully responsible to
hear. But he cannot hear the still small voice of God while his ears are filled
with the siren songs of the world. That he has no desire to hear does not
excuse him, rather does it the more condemn him. The Lord grant that the.44
daily attitude of writer and reader may be that of little Samuel, “Speak,
Lord, for thy servant heareth.”
“Ye are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father ye will
do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the
truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he
speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it”
(

John 8:44).
This was the prime point our Lord had been leading up to. First, He had
repudiated their claim of being the children of Abraham. Second, He had
demonstrated that God was not their Father. Now He tells them in plain
language who their father really was, even the Devil. Their characters had
been formed not under Divine influence, but under a diabolical influence.
The moral likeness of that great Enemy of God was plainly stamped upon
them. “Your inveterate opposition to the truth, shows your kinship to him
who is the father of the Lie, and your desire to kill Me evidences that you
are controlled by that one who was a murderer from the beginning.”
“Ye are of your father the Devil” is true of every unregenerate soul.
Renouncing their dependency on God, denying His proprietorship, loving
darkness rather than light, they fall an easy prey to the Prince of darkness.
He blinds their minds; he directs their walk, and works in them both to will
and to do of his evil pleasure (

Ephesians 2:2). Nor can sinners turn
round and cast the blame for this upon God. For as Christ here declares,
the lusts of their father they will do, or they desire to do, which is the
correct meaning of the word. They were cheerful servants; voluntary
slaves.
“And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not”
(

John 8:45).
The human race is now reaping what was sown at the beginning. Our first
parents rejected God’s truth and believed the Devil’s lie, and ever since
then man has been completely under the power of falsehood and error. He
will give credence to the most grotesque absurdities, but will regard with
skepticism what comes to him with a thousand fully authenticated
credentials. Some will believe that there are no such things as sin and
death. Some will believe that instead of being the descendants of fallen
Adam, they are the offspring of evolving apes. Some believe that they have
no souls and that death ends all. Others imagine that they can purchase.45
heaven with their own works. O the blindness and madness of unbelief! But
let the truth be presented; let men hear that God says they are lost, dead in
trespasses and sins; that eternal life is a gift, and eternal torment is the
portion of all who refuse that gift; and men believe them not. They believe
not God’s truth because their hearts love that which is false — “They go
astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (

Psalm 58:3); they
“delight in lies” (

Psalm 62:4); they make lies their “refuge” (

Isaiah
28:15), therefore it is that they “turn away their ears from the truth” (

2
Timothy 4:4); and though they are ever learning, yet are they “never able
to come to the knowledge of the truth” (

2 Timothy 3:7). And therefore
Christ is still saying to men, “because I tell you the truth, ye believe me
not.”
“Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do
ye not believe me?” (

John 8:46).
We take it Christ was here anticipating an objection. The charge He had
just made against them was a very severe and piercing one, yet He openly
challenges them to refute it. If you deny what I have said and charge Me
with falsehood, how will you prove your charge? Which of you can fairly
convince Me of that or of any other sin? But, on the other hand, if it be
evident that I have told you the truth, then why do ye not believe Me?
Such, in brief, we take to be our Lord’s meaning here.
“He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them
not, because ye are not of God” (

John 8:47).
The force of this we understand as follows: Every member of God’s family
is in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit, and in virtue of this receives with affection,
reverence, and obedient regard the words of his heavenly Father, by
whomsoever they are brought; hence, the reason why you do not receive
My words is because you are not His children. “He that is of God” carries
a double thought.
First, it signifies, he that belongs to God by eternal election. A parallel
to this is found in

John 10:26, “Ye believe not, because ye are not
of my sheep.” It is this which, in time, distinguished the elect from the
non-elect. The former, in due time, hear or receive God’s words; the
latter do not..46
Second, “He that is of God” signifies, he that has been born of God, he
that is in the family of God. A parallel to this is found in

John 18:37:
“Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”
“Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that
thou art a Samaritan, and hast a demon?” (

John 8:48).
This was a plain admission that they were unable to answer the Lord.
Completely vanquished in argument, they resort to vulgar and blasphemous
declamation. But why should these Jews have called Christ these particular
names at this time? We believe the answer is found in what Christ had just
said to them. He had declared that they were not the true children of
Abraham (verse 39); and He had affirmed that the Devil was their father
(verse 44). In reply, they retorted, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a
demon.” The general meaning of these epithets is clear: by “a Samaritan”
they meant one who was an enemy to their national faith; by “thou hast a
demon” they intimated one obsessed by a proud and lying spirit. What
frightful insults did the Lord of glory submit to!
“Jesus answered, I have not a demon; but I honor my Father, and
ye do dishonor me” (

John 8:49).
To the first of their reproaches He made no reply. He passed it by as
unworthy of notice, the irritated outburst of wanton malice. To the second
He returns a blank denial, and then adds, “but I honor my Father.” One
who is controlled by the Devil is a liar, but Christ had told them the truth.
One who is prompted by the Devil flatters men, but Christ had depicted
fallen human nature in the most humbling terms. One who is moved by the
Devil is inflated with pride, seeks honor and fame; but Christ sought only
the honor of Another, even the Father. Divinely calm, Divinely dignified.
Divinely majestic was such an answer. How the longsufferance of Christ,
His patient bearing with these villifiers, His unruffled spirit and calm
bearing, evidenced Him to be none other than the Son of God.
“And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and
judgeth” (

John 8:50).
“‘If I did, I should not have told you the truth. Had My own
aggrandizement been My object, I should have followed another
course; and My not obtaining “glory” — a good opinion — from
you, no way disheartens Me. There is One who seeketh, that is,
who seeketh My glory. There is One who will look after My.47
reputation. There is One who is pledged in holy covenant to make
Me His firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. And He who
seeketh My glory, judgeth. He will sit in judgment on your
judgment.’ These words seem plainly intended to intimate, in a very
impressive way, the fearful responsibility they had incurred. He was
doing His Father’s will: they were treating Him with contumely.
The Father was seeking the honor of His faithful Servant, His
beloved Son; and dreadful would be the manifestation of His
displeasure against those who, so far as lay in their power, had put
to shame the God-man, whom He delighted to honor” (Dr. J.
Brown).
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall
never see death.” (

John 8:51).
Christ had just pointed out the fearful consequence of rejecting Him and
His Word — there was One who would judge them. Locally this pointed to
the awful visitation from God upon their nation in A.D. 70; but the ultimate
reference is to eternal judgment, which is “the second death.” Now in sharp
and blessed contrast from the doom awaiting those in whom the Word had
“no place,” Christ now says, “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see
death”! Blessed promise was this for His own. But mark how human
responsibility is here pressed — the promise is only to the one who keeps
Christ’s Word. To “keep” the Word is to hide it in the heart (

Psalm
119:11). It is to retain it in the memory (

1 Corinthians 15:3). It is to be
governed by it in our daily lives (

Revelation 3:8). “He shall never see
(know, experience) death” refers to penal death, the wages of sin, eternal
separation from God in the torments of Hell. For the believer physical
dissolution is not death (separation), but to be present with the Lord (

2
Corinthians 5:8).
“Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil.
Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep
my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our
father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom
makest thou thyself?” (

John 8:52, 53).
What a striking exemplification was this of what our Lord had said in verse
43: they understood not His speech and heard not His words. Devoid of
discernment, they had no capacity to perceive the spiritual import of what
He said. Such is the awful condition of the natural man: the things of God.48
are foolishness to him (

1 Corinthians 2:14). What is revealed to babes in
Christ is completely hidden from those who are wise and prudent in their
own estimation and in the judgment of the world (

Matthew 11:25). No
matter how simply and plainly the truths of Scripture may be expounded,
the unregenerate are unable to understand them. Unable because their
interests are elsewhere. Unable because they will not humble themselves
and cry unto God for light. Unable because their hearts are estranged from
Him. Christian reader, what abundant reason have you to thank God for
giving you an understanding (

1 John 5:20)!
“Jesus answered, if I honor myself, my honor is nothing; it is my
Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God”
(

John 8:54).
“It is my Father that honoureth me”: precious words are these and worthy
of prolonged study and meditation. To “honor” is to do or speak that of a
person which shall not only manifest our own esteem for him, but shall lead
others to esteem him too. The Father’s esteem for the Son is evidenced by
His love and admiration for Him, as well as His desire to make Him the
loved and admired of others. God honored Him at His birth, by sending the
angels to herald Him as Christ the Lord. He honored Him during the days
of His infancy, by directing the wise men from the east to come and
worship the young King. He honored Him at His baptism, by proclaiming
Him His beloved Son. He honored Him in death, by not suffering His body
to see corruption. He honored Him at His ascension, when He exalted Him
to His own right hand. He will honor Him in the final judgment, when
every knee shall be made to bow before Him and every tongue confess that
He is Lord. And throughout eternity He shall be honored by a redeemed
people who shall esteem Him the Fairest among ten thousand to their
souls. Infinitely worthy is the Lamb to receive honor and glory. Let then
the writer and reader see to it that our daily lives honor Him who has so
highly honored us as to call us “brethren.”
“Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I
know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and
keep his saying” (

John 8:55).
The One who honored Him they knew not, despite their profession to be
His children. But on the other hand, if He were to deny the knowledge He
had of the Father, then He would be as false as they were in pretending to
know Him. But He would not deny Him; nay more, He would continue to.49
give evidence of His knowledge of the Father by keeping His Word. For
Him that Word meant to finish the work which had been given Him to do,
to become obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. A searching
word is this for us. If we really know the Father it will be evidenced by our
subjection to His Word!
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and
was glad” (

John 8:56).
More literally the Greek reads, “Abraham, your father, was transported
with an exultant desire that he should see My day, and he saw it and
rejoiced.” The Greek is much more expressive and emphatic than our
English translation. It intimates that Abraham looked forward with joy to
meet the Object of his desires, and exulted in a sight of it. But to what did
our Lord refer when He said, Abraham saw “my day”? In the Greek the
“day” is emphasized by putting it before the pronoun — “day, my.” We
believe that “day” is here to be understood in its dispensational sense, as
signifying the entire Dispensation of Christ, which embraces the two
advents. Probably what Abraham saw and rejoiced in was, first, the
humiliation of Christ, terminating in His death, which would occasion the
patriarch great joy as he knew that death would blot out all his sins:
second, the vindication and glorification of Christ.
But how did Abraham “see” Christ’s “day”? We believe that a threefold
answer may be returned: First, Abraham saw the day of Christ by faith in
the promises of God (

Hebrews 11:13).

Hebrews 11:10 and 16
intimate plainly that the Spirit of God made discoveries to Abraham which
are not recorded on the pages of the Old Testament. Second, Abraham saw
the day of Christ in type. In offering Isaac on the altar and in receiving him
back in figure from the dead, he received a marvelous foreshadowing of the
Savior’s death and resurrection. Third, by special revelation. The “secret
of the Lord” is with them that fear Him, and there is no doubt in our mind
but that God was pleased to show the Old Testament saints much more of
His covenant than is commonly supposed among us (see

Psalm 25:14).
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was
glad.” The relevancy of this remark of Christ and its relation to what had
gone before are easily perceived. More immediately, it was part of His
answer to their last question in verse 53 — “Whom makest thou thyself?”
More remotely, it furnished the final proof that they were not the children
of Abraham, for they did not his work (verse 39). If these Jews rejoiced.50
not at the appearing of Christ before them, then in no sense were they like
Abraham.
“Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and
hast thou seen Abraham?” (

John 8:57).
How blind they were! How thoroughly incompetent to understand His
speech. Christ had not spoken of seeing Abraham, but of Abraham seeing
His “day.” There was a vast difference between these two things, but they
were incapable of perceiving it.
“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before
Abraham was, I am” (

John 8:58).
Here was the full disclosure of His glory; the affirmation that He was none
other than the Eternal One. That they so understood Him is evident from
what follows.
“Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and
went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so
passed by” (

John 8:59).
“It is Immanuel: but there is no knee bent to Him, no loving
homage tendered. They took up stones to stone Him, and He hiding
Himself for the moment from their sacrilegious violence, passes out
of the temple” (F. W. Grant).
“Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of
them, and so passed by.” Fearfully solemn is this in its present-day
application. The chief design of the whole chapter is to present Christ as
the “light” and to show us what that Light revealed. Not by observation
can we discover the full ruin which sin has wrought. It is only as the Light
shines that man is fully exposed. And that which is particularly discovered
here is the utter vanity of the religious pretensions of the natural man.
Apart from spiritual discernment, the religious professor presents before us
a fair appearance. His evident sincerity, his punctiliousness, his
unquestionable zeal, his warm devotion, his fidelity to the cause he has
espoused, are frequently a mask which no human eye can penetrate. It is
not until such professors are exposed to the searching light of God that
their real characters are laid bare. It is only as the Word is faithfully applied
to them that their awful depravity is revealed. It was not profligate.51
outcasts, but orthodox Jews who are here seen taking up stones to cast at
the Son of God, and they did this not on the public highway, but in the
temple; Nor have things changed for the better. Were Christ here today in
Servant-form, and were He to enter our churches and tell the great mass of
religious professors that they were the bondslaves of sin, and that they
were of their father the Devil and that his lusts they delighted in doing, they
would conduct themselves exactly as their fellows did eighteen centuries
ago. Terribly significant then is the final word of our chapter: the Savior
“hid himself” from them, and went out of the temple. It is so still. From the
self-righteous and self-sufficient but blinded religious formalists, Christ still
hides Himself; those who deny that they need to be made free from the
slavery of sin He still leaves to themselves. But thank God it is written,
“I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a
contrite and humble spirit” (

Isaiah 57:15).
The following questions are to help the interested student on the next
chapter,

John 9:1-7: —
1. What is the great doctrinal teaching of this passage?
2. What typical picture does it contain?
3. Why does it open with the word “And”? verse 1.
4. To what was Christ referring in verse 4?
5. Why did Christ again say “I am the Light of the world” verse 5.
6. What was the symbolical meaning of verses 6 and 7?
7. What force has “therefore” in verse 7?.52
CHAPTER 31
CHRIST AND THE BLIND BEGGAR

JOHN 9:1-7
Below will be found an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us: —
1. Jesus beholds the man born blind: verse 1.
2. The disciples’ question: verse 2.
3. Christ’s answer: verses 3-5.
4. Christ anoints the blind man: verse 6.
5. Christ sends the man to the Pool: verse 7.
6. The man’s prompt obedience: verse 7.
7. The miracle completed: verse 7.
That there is an intimate connection between John 8 and John 9 is manifest
from the first word of the latter, and when the Holy Spirit has thus linked
two things together it behooves us to pay close attention to the law of
comparison and contrast. The little conjunction at the opening of John 9 is
very appropriate, for in the previous verse we read of Jesus hiding Himself
from those who took up stones to cast at Him; while in

John 9:1 we
behold a man blind from his birth, unable to see the passing Savior. That
these two chapters are closely related is further seen by a comparison of

John 8:12 and

John 9:5: in both Christ is revealed, specifically, as
“the light of the world.” As we read carefully the opening verses of the
chapter now before us and compare them with the contents of John 8 it
will be found that they present to us a series of contrasts. For example, in
John 8 we behold Christ as “the light” exposing the darkness, but in John 9
He communicates sight. In John 8 the Light is despised and rejected, in
John 9 He is received and worshipped. In John 8 the Jews are seen
stooping down — to pick up stones; in John 9 Christ is seen stooping
down — to make anointing clay. In John 8.53
Christ hides Himself from the Jews; in John 9 He reveals Himself to the
blind beggar. In John 8 we have a company in whom the Word has no
place (verse 37); in John 9 is one who responds promptly to the Word
(verse 7). In John 8 Christ, inside the Temple, is called a demoniac (verse
48); in John 9, outside the Temple, He is owned as Lord (verse 36). The
central truth of John 8 is the Light testing human responsibility; in John 9
the central truth is God acting in sovereign grace after human responsibility
has failed. This last and most important contrast we must ponder at length.
In John 8 a saddening and humbling scene was before us. There Christ was
manifested as “the light” and woeful were the objects that it shone upon. It
reminds us very much of that which is presented right at the beginning of
God’s Word.

Genesis 1:2 introduces us to a ruined earth, with darkness
enveloping it. The very first thing God said there was, “Let there be light,”
and we are told, “There was light.” And upon what did the light shine?
what did its beams reveal? It shone upon an earth that had become
“without form and void”; its beams revealed a scene of desolation and
death. There was no sun shining by day nor moon by night. There was no
vegetation, no moving creature, no life. A pall of death hung over the
earth. The light only made manifest the awful ruin which sin (here, the sin
of Satan) had wrought, and the need for the sovereign goodness and
almighty power of God to intervene and produce life and fertility.
So it was in John 8. Christ as the Light of the world discovers not only the
state of Israel, but too, the common atheism of man. He affirmed His
power to make free the bondslaves of sin (

John 8:32): but His auditors
denied that they were in bondage. He spoke the words of the Father
(

John 8:38): but they neither understood nor believed Him. He told
them that their characters were formed under the influence of the Devil and
that they desired it to be so (

John 8:44): in reply they blasphemously
charged Him with having a demon. He declared that He was the Object
who had rejoiced the heart of Abraham (

John 8:56): and they scoffed at
Him. He told them He was the great and eternal “I am” (

John 8:58):
and they picked up stones to cast at Him. All of this furnishes us with a
graphic but accurate picture of the character of the natural man the world
over. The mind of the sinner is enmity against God, and he hates the Christ
of God. He may be very religious, and left to himself, he may appear to be
quite pious. But let the light of God be turned upon him, let the bubble of
his self-righteousness be punctured, let his awful depravity be exposed, let.54
the claims of Christ be pressed upon him, and he is not only skeptical, but
furious.
What, then, was Christ’s response? Did He turn His back on the whole
human race? Did He return at once to heaven, thoroughly disgusted at His
reception in this world? What wonder if the Father had there and then
called His Son back to the glory which He had left. Ah! but God is the God
of all grace, and grace needed the dark background of sin so that its bright
lustre might shine the more resplendently. Yet grace would be
misunderstood and unappreciated were it shown to all alike, for in that
case men would deem it a right to which they were entitled, a meet
compensation for God allowing the race to fall into sin. O the folly of
human reasoning! Grace would be no more grace if fallen men had any
claims upon it. God is under no obligations to men: every title to His favor
was forfeited forever when they, in the person of their representative,
rebelled against Him. Therefore does He say, “I will have mercy on whom
I will have mercy” (

Romans 9:15). It is this side of the truth which
receives such striking illustration in the passage which is to be before us.
In John 8 we are shown the utter ruin of the natural man-despising God’s
goodness, hating His Christ. Here in John 9 we behold the Lord dealing in
grace, acting according to His sovereign benignity. This, this is the central
contrast pointed by these two chapters. In the former it is the Light testing
human responsibility; in the latter, the Light acting in sovereign mercy after
the failure of human responsibility had been demonstrated. In the one we
see the sin of man exposed, in the other we behold the grace of God
displayed.
“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his
birth” (

John 9:1).
That which is dominant in this passage is intimated in the opening verse.
The sovereignty of Divine grace is exemplified at once in the actions of our
Lord and in the character of the one upon whom His favors were
bestowed. The Savior saw a certain man; the man did not see Him, for he
had no capacity to do so, being blind. Nor did the blind man call upon
Christ to have mercy upon him. The Lord was the one to take the initiative.
It is ever thus when sovereign grace acts. But let us admire separately each
detail in the picture here..55
“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man.” How blessed. The Savior was not
occupied with His own sorrows to the exclusion of those of others. The
absence of appreciation and the presence of hatred in almost all around
Him, did not check that blessed One in His unwearied service to others,
still less did He abandon it. Love “suffereth long,” and “beareth all things”
(1 Corinthians 13). And Christ was Love incarnate, therefore did the
stream of Divine goodness flow on unhindered by all man’s wickedness.
How this perfection of Christ rebukes our imperfections, our selfishness!
“He saw a man which was blind from his birth.” What a pitiable object! To
lose an arm or a leg is a serious handicap, but the loss of sight is far more
so. And this man had never seen. From how many enjoyments was he cut
off! Into what a narrow world did his affliction confine him! And blindness,
like all other bodily afflictions, is one of the effects of sin. Not always so
directly, but always so remotely. Had Adam never disobeyed his Maker the
human family had been free from disease and suffering. Let us learn then to
hate sin with godly hatred as the cause of all our sorrows; and let the sight
of suffering ones serve to remind us of what a horrible thing sin is. But let
us also remind ourselves that there is something infinitely more awful than
physical blindness and temporal suffering, namely, sickness of soul and a
blinded heart.
“He saw a man which was blind from his birth.” Accurately did he portray
the terrible condition of the natural man. The sinner is blind spiritually. His
understanding is darkened and his heart is blinded (

Ephesians 4:18).
Because of this he cannot see the awfulness of his condition: he cannot see
his imminent danger: he cannot see his need of a Savior —
“Except a man be born again he cannot see” (

John 3:3).
Such an one needs more than light; he needs the capacity given him to see
the light. It is not a matter of mending his glasses (reformation), or of
correcting his vision (education and culture), or of eye ointment (religion).
None of these reach, or can reach, the root of the trouble. The natural man
is born blind spiritually, and a faculty missing at birth cannot be supplied
by extra cultivation of the others. A “transgressor from the womb”
(

Isaiah 48:8). shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin (

Psalm 51:5),
man needs a Savior from the time he draws his very first breath. Such is the
condition of God’s elect in their unregenerate state — “by nature the
children of wrath, even as others” (

Ephesians 2:3)..56
“He saw a man which was blind from his birth.” The late Bishop Ryle
called attention to the significant fact that the Gospels record more cases of
blindness healed than that of any other one affliction. There was one deaf
and dumb healed, one sick of the palsy, one sick of a fever, two instances
of lepers being healed, three dead raised, but five of the blind! How this
emphasizes the fact that man is in the dark spiritually. Moreover, the man
in our lesson was a beggar (verse 8) — another line in the picture which so
accurately portrays our state by nature. A beggar the poor sinner is:
possessing nothing of his own, dependent on charity. A blind beggar —
what an object of need and helplessness! Blind from his birth — altogether
beyond the reach of man!
“And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man,
or his parents, that he was born blind?” (

John 9:2).
How little pity these disciples seem to have had for this blind beggar, and
how indifferent to the outflow of the Lord’s grace. Instead of humbly and
trustfully waiting to see what Christ would do, they were philosophizing.
The point over which they were reasoning concerned the problem of
suffering and the inequalities in the lot of human existence — points which
have engaged the minds of men in every clime and age, and which apart
from the light of God’s Word are still unsolved. There are many who drift
along unexercised by much of what goes on around them. That some
should be born into this world to enter an environment of comfort and
luxury, while others first see the light amid squalor and poverty; that some
should start the race of mortality with a healthy body and a goodly reserve
of vitality, while others should be severely handicapped with an organism
that is feeble or diseased, and still others should be crippled from the
womb, are phenomena which affect different people in very different ways.
Many are largely unconcerned. If all is well with them, they give very little
thought to the troubles of their fellows. But there are others who cannot
remain indifferent, and whose minds seek an explanation to these
mysteries. Why is it that some are born blind? — a mere accident it cannot
be. As a punishment for sin, is the most obvious explanation. But if this be
the true answer, a punishment for whose sins?
“Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Three theories were current among the philosophers and theologians of
that day. The first obtained in some measure among the Babylonians, and
more extensively amongst the Persians and Greeks, and that was the.57
doctrine of reincarnation. This was the view of the Essenes and Gnostics.
They held that the soul of man returned to this earth again and again, and
that the law of retribution regulated its varied temporal circumstances. If in
his previous earthly life a man had been guilty of grievous sins, special
punishment was meted out to him in his next earthly sojourn. In this way
philosophers sought to explain the glaring inequalities among men. Those
who now lived in conditions of comfort and prosperity were reaping the
reward of former merit; those who were born to a life of suffering and
poverty were being punished for previous sins. That this theory of re-incarnation
obtained in measure even among the Jews is clear from

Matthew 16:13, 14. When Christ asked His disciples, “Whom do men
say that I the Son of man am?” they said, “Some say that thou art John the
Baptist: some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” which
shows that some of them thought the soul of one of the prophets was now
re-incarnated in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Further evidence that this
view obtained to some extent among the Jews is supplied by the
Apocrypha. In “The Wisdom of Solomon” — 8:19, 20 — are found these
words, “Now I was a goodly child, and a goodly soul fell to my lot. Nay
rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled”!
But among the rabbins this theory held no place. It was so completely
without scriptural support, yea, it so obviously clashed with the teaching of
the Old Testament, they rejected it in toto. How then could they explain
the problem of human suffering? The majority of them did so by the law of
heredity. They considered that

Exodus 20:5 supplied the key to the
whole problem: all suffering was to be attributed to the sins of the parents.
But the Old Testament ought to have warned them against such a
sweeping application of

Exodus 20:5. The case of Job should have at
least modified their views. With some it did, and among the Pharisees a
third theory, still more untenable, was formulated. Some held that a child
could sin even in the womb, and

Genesis 25:22 was quoted in support.
It was in view of these prevailing and conflicting theories and philosophies
which then obtained that the disciples put their question to the Lord:
“Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Evidently they desired to hear what He would say upon the matter. But
what is the present-day application of this verse to us? Surely the reasoning
of these disciples in the presence of the blind beggar points a solemn
warning. Surely it tells of the danger there is of us theorizing and
philosophizing while we remain indifferent to human needs. Let us beware.58
of becoming so occupied with the problems of theology that we fail to
preach the Gospel to lost souls!
“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but
that the works of God should be made manifest in Him”
(

John 9:3).
The Lord returned a double answer to the disciples’ inquiry: negatively,
this man was not born blind because of sin. “Neither did this man sin nor
his parents” must not be understood absolutely, but like many another
sentence of Scripture has to be modified by its setting. Our Lord did not
mean that this man’s parents had never sinned, but that their sin was not
the reason why their son had been born blind. All suffering is remotely due
to sin, for if sin had not entered the world there would have been no
suffering among humankind. But there is much suffering which is not due
immediately to sin. Indirectly the Lord here rebukes a spirit which all of us
are prone to indulge. It is so easy to assume the role of judge and pass
sentence upon another. This was the sin of Job’s friends, recorded for our
learning and warning. The same spirit is displayed among some of the
“Faith-healing” sects of our day. With them the view largely obtains that
sickness is due to some sin in the life, and that where healing is withheld it
is because that sin is unconfessed. But this is a very harsh and censorious
judgment, and must frequently be erroneous. Moreover, it tends strongly to
foster pride. If I am enjoying better health than many of my fellows, the
inference would be, it is because I am not so great a sinner as they! The
Lord deliver us from such reprehensible Phariseeism.
“But that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” Here is the
positive side of our Lord’s answer, and it throws some light upon the
problem of suffering. God has His own wise reasons for permitting
sickness and disease; ofttimes it is that He may be glorified thereby. It was
so in the case of Lazarus (

John 11:4). It was so in connection with the
death of Peter (

John 21:19). It was so in the affliction of the apostle
Paul (

2 Corinthians 12:9). It was so with this blind beggar: he was born
blind that the power of God might be evidenced in the removal of it, and
that Christ might be glorified thereby.
“But that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” Let us not
miss the present application of this to suffering saints today. Surely this
word of the Savior’s contains a message of consolation to afflicted ones
among His people now. Not that they may expect to be relieved by a.59
miracle, but that they may comfort themselves with the assurance that God
has a wise (if hidden) purpose to be served by their affliction, and that is,
that in some way He will be glorified thereby. That way may not be
manifested at once; perhaps not for long years. At least thirty years (see
verse 23) passed before God made it evident why this man had been born
blind. As to what God’s purpose is in our affliction, as to how His purpose
will be attained, and as to when it will be accomplished, these things are
none of our affair. Our business is to meekly submit to His sovereign
pleasure (

1 Samuel 3:18), and to be duly “exercised thereby”
(

Hebrews 12:11). Of this we may be sure, that whatever is for God’s
glory in us, will ultimately bring blessing to us. Then do not question God’s
love, but seek grace to rest in sincere faith on

Romans 11:36 and 8:28.
“I must work the works of him that sent me” (

John 9:4).
And what were these works? To reveal the perfections of God and to
minister to the needs of His creatures. Such “works” the Son must do
because He was one both in will and in nature with the Father. But no
doubt there is another meaning in these words. The “works of him” that
sent Christ were not only works that were pleasing to God, but they were
works which had been predestinated by God. These works must be done
because God had eternally decreed them — cf, the “must” in

John 4:4
and 10:16.
“The night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the
world, I am the light of the world” (

John 9:4, 5).
More specifically this statement had reference to what Christ was about to
do — give sight to the blind beggar. This is clear from the opening words
of verse 6: “When he had thus spoken.” The miracle Christ was about to
perform gave a striking illustration of the yet greater miracle of the Divine
bestowment of spiritual vision upon an elect sinner. Such an one must be
illumined for the eternal counsels of Deity so determined — compare the
“must” in

Acts 4:12. The saving of a sinner is not only entirely the
“work” of God, but it is, pre-eminently, that in which He delights. This is
what these words of Christ here plainly intimate. How blessed to know,
then, that the most glorious of all God’s works is displayed in the saving of
lost and hell-deserving sinners, and that the Persons of the Trinity
cooperate in the outflow of grace..60
“The night cometh, when no man can work.” Christ here teaches us both
by word and example the importance of making the most of our present
opportunities. His earthly ministry was completed in less than four years,
and these were now rapidly drawing to a close. He must then be about His
Father’s business. A Divine constraint was upon Him. May a like sense of
urgency impel us to redeem the time, knowing the days are evil
(

Ephesians 5:16). What a solemn word is this for the sinner: “the night
cometh, when no man can work”! This is life’s day for him; in front lies the
blackness of darkness forever (

Jude 1:13). Unsaved reader, your
“night” hastens on. “Today if ye will hear his voice harden not your
hearts.” “Behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of
salvation” (

2 Corinthians 6:2).
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Christ seems to
be referring to the attempt which had just been made upon His life
(

John 8:59). Soon the appointed time would come for Him to leave the
world, but until that time had arrived man could not get rid of Him. The
light would shine despite all man’s efforts to put it out. The stones of these
Jews could not intimidate or hinder this One from finishing the work which
has been given Him to do. “Light of the world” He had just demonstrated
Himself to be by exposing their wicked hearts. “Light of the world” He
would now exhibit Himself by communicating sight and salvation to this
poor blind beggar.
“When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay
of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the
clay” (

John 9:6).
This was a parable in action and deserves our closest attention. Christ’s
mode of procedure here though extraordinarily peculiar was, nevertheless,
profoundly significant. Peculiar it certainly was, for the surest way to blot
out vision would be to plaster the eye with wet clay: and yet this was the
only thing Christ did to this blind beggar. Equally sure is it that His
mysterious action possessed some deep symbolic significance. What that
was we shall now inquire.
“When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the
spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.” The first
thing we must do is to study this care* fully in the light of the context.
What is before us in the context? This: the “light of the world” (

John
8:12), the “sent one” (

John 8:18), the “Son” (

John 8:36) was.61
despised and rejected of the Jews. And why was that? Because He
appeared before them in such lowly guise. They judged Him “after the
flesh” (

John 8:15); they sought to kill Him because He was “a man that
had told them the truth” (

John 8:40). They had no eyes to discern His
Divine glory and were stumbled by the fact that He stood before them in
“the likeness of men.”
Now what do we have here in John 9? This: once more Christ affirms that
He was “the light of the world” (

John 9:5); then, immediately following,
we read, “When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay
of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.”
Surely the meaning of this is now apparent. “As a figure, it pointed to the
humanity of Christ in earthly humiliation and lowliness, presented to the
eyes of men, but with Divine efficacy of life in Him” (J.N.D.). Christ had
presented Himself before the Jews, but devoid of spiritual perception they
recognized Him not. And did the blind beggar, who accurately represented
the Jews, did he see when Christ applied the clay to his eyes? No; he did
not. He was still as blind as ever, and even though he had not been blind he
could not have seen now. What, then, must he do? He must obey Christ.
And what did Christ tell him to do? Mark carefully what follows.
“And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by
interpretation, Sent)” (

John 9:7).
This, too, was a sermon in action. What the blind beggar needed was
water. And of what did that speak? Clearly of the written Word (see our
notes on

John 3:5, and cf.

Ephesians 5:26). It was just because the
Jews failed to use the water of the Word that the eyes of their hearts
remained closed. Turn to

John 5, and what do we find there? We see
the Jews seeking to kill Christ because He made Himself equal with God
(verse 18). And what did He bid them do? This: “Search the Scriptures”
(

John 5:39). We have the same thing again in John 10: the Jews took up
stones again to stone Him (verse 31). And the Lord asked them why they
acted thus. Their answer was, “Because that thou, being a man, makest
thyself God” (verse 33). What reply did Christ make, “Jesus answered
them, Is it not written?” It was then, this very thing which (symbolically)
the Lord commanded the blind beggar to do. He obeyed implicitly, and the
result was that he obtained his sight. The difference between the Jews and
the beggar was this: they thought they could see already, and so refused
the testimony of the written Word; whereas the beggar knew that he was.62
blind and therefore used the water to which Christ referred him. This
supplies the key to the 39th verse of this chapter which sums up all that has
gone before. “And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that
they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made
blind.”
We turn now to consider the doctrinal significance of what has just been
before us. The blind beggar is to be viewed as a representative character,
i.e., as standing for each of God’s elect. Blind from birth, and therefore
beyond the help of man; a beggar and therefore having nothing, he fitly
portrays our condition by nature. Sought out by Christ and ministered to
without a single cry or appeal from him, we have a beautiful illustration of
the activities of sovereign grace reaching out to us in our unregenerate
state. Our Lord’s method of dealing with him, was also, in principle, the
way in which He dealt with us, when Divine mercy came to our rescue.
“He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the
eyes of the blind man with the clay.” This seems to have a double meaning.
Dispensationally it symbolized Christ presenting Himself in the flesh before
the eyes of Israel. Doctrinally it prefigured the Lord pressing upon the
sinner his lost condition and need of a Savior. The placing of clay on his
eyes emphasizes our blindness. “And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool
of Siloam.” This intimates our need of turning to the Word and applying it
to ourselves, for it is the entrance of God’s words which, alone, give light
(

Psalm 119:130).
The name of the Pool in which the blind beggar was commanded to wash is
not without its significance, as is seen by the fact that the Holy Spirit was
careful to interpret it to us. God incarnate is the Object presented to the
needy sinner’s view: the One who was “anointed” by the Holy Spirit
(

Acts 10:38). How is He presented to us? Not as pure spirit, nor in the
form of an angel; but as “made flesh.” Where is He to be thus found? In the
written Word. As we turn to that Word we shall learn that the man Christ
Jesus is none other than the “sent one” of the Father. It is through the
Word alone (as taught by the Holy Spirit) that we can come to know the
Christ of God.
“He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (

John 9:7).
The simple obedience of the blind beggar is very beautiful. He did not stop
to reason and ask questions, but promptly did what was told him. As the
old Puritan, John Trapp (1647), quaintly puts it, “He obeyed Christ blindly..63
He looked not upon Siloam with Syrian eyes as Naaman did upon Jordan;
but, passing by the unlikelihood of a cure by such means, he believeth and
doeth as he was bidden, without hesitation.” Let the interested student go
over the whole chapter carefully and prayerfully, seeking the personal
application of this passage. Let the following questions be studied: —
1. How do verses 8 and 9 apply to the history of a newly saved soul?
2. What do verses 10 and 11 teach us concerning the young convert?
3. How do verse 12 fit in with the application of this passage to a babe
in Christ?
4. Study verses 13-16 from a similar viewpoint.
5. What do the beggar’s words in verse 17 intimate? Cf. our remarks
on

John 4:19.
6. What does verse 18 teach the young believer to expect?
7. What do verses 20-23 teach the babe in Christ he must do?.64
CHAPTER 32
CHRIST AND THE BLIND BEGGAR (CONTINUED)

JOHN 9:8-23
We begin with our usual Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:

1. The uncertainty of the neighbors: verses 8, 9.
2. Their questioning of the beggar: verse 10.
3. The beggar’s answers: verses 11, 12.
4. The Pharisees and the Sabbath: verses 13, 14.
5. The beggar before the Pharisees: verses 15-17.
6. The skepticism of the Jews: verse 18.
7. The beggar’s parents interrogated: verses 19-23.
In our last chapter we pointed out how that the opening verses of John 9
supply us with a blessed illustration of the outflow of sovereign grace
toward an elect sinner. Every detail in the picture contributes to its beauty
and accuracy. Upon the dark background of the Jews’ hatred of Christ
(chapter 8) we are now shown the Savior ministering to one who strictly
portrays the spiritual condition of each of God’s elect when the Lord
begins His distinguishing work of mercy upon him. Seven things are told us
about the object of the Redeemer’s compassion:
First, he was found outside the Temple, portraying the fact that, in his
natural ‘condition, the elect sinner is alienated from God.
Second, he was blind, and therefore unable to see the Savior when He
approached him.
Third, he had been blind from birth: so, too, is the sinner — “estranged
from the womb” (

Psalm 58:3).
Fourth, he was therefore quite beyond the aid of man: helpless and
hopeless unless God intervened..65
Fifth, he was a beggar (verse 8), unable to purchase any remedy if remedy
there was; completely dependent upon charity.
Sixth, he made no appeal to the Savior and uttered no cry for mercy; such
is our condition before Divine grace begins to work within us.
Seventh, the reasoning of the disciples (verse 2) illustrates the sad fact that
no human eye pities the sinner in his spiritual wretchedness.
Our Lord’s dealings with this poor fellow shadow forth His gracious work
in us today. Note, again, seven things, in connection with Christ and the
blind beggar. First, He looked in tender pity upon the one who so sorely
needed His healing touch. Second, He declared that this man had been
created to the end that the power and grace of God might be manifested in
him (verse 3). Third, He intimated that necessity was laid upon Him (verse
4): the eternal counsels of grace “must” be accomplished in the one singled
out by Divine favor. Fourth, He announced Himself as the One who had
power to communicate light to those in darkness (verse 5). Fifth, He
pressed upon the blind beggar his desperate need by emphasizing his sad
condition (verse 6). Sixth, He pointed him to the means of blessing and put
his faith to the test (verse 7). Seventh, the beggar obeyed, and in his
obedience obtained evidence that a miracle of mercy had been wrought
upon him. Each of these seven things has their counterpart in the realm of
grace today.
As we follow the Divine narrative and note the experiences of the blind
beggar after he had received his sight, we shall find that it continues to
mirror forth that which has its analogy in the spiritual history of those who
have been apprehended by Christ. What is before us here in John 9 is
something more than an incident that happened in the long ago — it
accurately depicts what is transpiring in our own day. The more the
believer studies this passage in the light of his own spiritual history, the
more will he see how perfectly this narrative describes his own experiences.
“The neighbors therefore, and they which before had seen him that
he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?”
(

John 9:8).
When a genuine work of grace has been wrought in a soul it is impossible
to conceal it from our neighbors and acquaintances. At first they will talk
among themselves and discuss with a good deal of curiosity and
speculation what has happened. The unsaved are always skeptical of God’s.66
miracles. When one of their fellows is saved, they cannot deny that a
radical change has taken place, though the nature of it they are completely
at a loss to explain. They know not that the manifestation of Christ in the
outward life of a quickened soul is due to Christ now dwelling within. Yet,
even the unbelieving world is compelled to take note and indirectly
acknowledge that regeneration is a real thing. Ah! dear reader, if the Lord
Jesus has lain His wondrous hand on you, then those with whom you come
into daily contact will recognize the fact. “They will see that it is not with
thee as it used to be — that a real change has passed upon thee — that the
tempers and lusts, habits and influences which once ruled thee with
despotic power, now rule thee no longer — that though evil may
occasionally break out, it does not habitually bear sway — that though it
dwells within it does not reign — though it plagues it does not govern.”
“Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am
he” (

John 9:9).
How marvellously accurate is this line in the picture! When one who is
dead in trespasses and sins has been quickened into newness of life he
becomes a new creature in Christ, but the old man still remains. Not yet
has he been delivered from this body of death; for that, he must await the
return of our Lord. In the one who has been born again there are, then, two
natures: the old is not destroyed, but a new has been imparted. This is
plainly foreshadowed in the verse before us: some recognized the one they
had known before his eyes were opened; others saw a different personality.
It is this which is so puzzling in connection with regeneration. The
individual is still the same, but a new principle and element have come into
his life.
“Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?”
(

John 9:10).
How true to life again! The one who has found mercy with the Lord is now
put to the proof: his faith, his loyalty, his courage must be tested. It is not
long before the quickened soul discovers that he is living in a world that is
unfriendly toward him. At first God may not permit that unfriendliness to
take on a very aggressive form, for He deals very tenderly with the babes in
His family. But as they grow in grace and become strong in the Lord and in
the power of His might, He suffers them to be tested more severely and no
longer shields them from the fiercer assaults of their great enemy.
Nevertheless, testing they must have from the beginning, for it is thus that.67
faith is developed by casting us upon the Lord and perfecting our weakness
in His strength.
“Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?” Here was an
opportunity afforded this one who had so wondrously received his sight to
bear witness to His gracious Benefactor. To confess Christ, to tell of what
great things the Lord hath done for him, is the first duty of the newly saved
soul, and the promise is,
“Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man
also confess before the angels of God” (

Luke 12:8).
But this is the last thing which the world appreciates or desires: that
blessed Name which is above every name is an offense to them. It is
striking to observe how the neighbors of the beggar framed their question:
“How were thine eyes opened?” not “Who opened thine eyes?” They
wished to satisfy their curiosity, but they had no desire to hear about
Christ!
“He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and
anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam,
and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight”
(

John 9:11).
The witness borne by this man was simple and honest. As yet he did not
have much light, but he was faithful to the light that he did have; and that is
the way to obtain more. He did not speculate nor philosophize, but gave a
straightforward account of what the Lord had done to him. Two things in
this man’s confession should be noted as accurately illustrating the witness
of a newly saved soul today. First, it was the work of Christ rather than His
person which had most impressed him; it was what Christ had done, rather
than who He was that was emphasized in his testimony. It is so with us.
The first thing we grasp is that it is the Cross-work of the Lord Jesus, His
sacrificial death which put away our sins; the infinite value of His person
we learn later, as the Spirit unfolds it to us through the Word. Second, in
connection with the person of Christ it was His humanity, not His Deity
that this man spoke of. And was it not so with us? “A man that is called
Jesus” — was it not that aspect of His blessed person which first filled our
vision! “A man that is called Jesus” speaks of His lowliness and
humiliation. Later, as we study the Scriptures and grow in the knowledge.68
of the Lord, we discover that the man Christ Jesus is none other than the
Son of God.
“He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed
mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I
went and washed, and I received sight.” That precious name of “Jesus”
was the most hated of all to those Jews; yet did the beggar boldly confess
it. “It would manifestly have served the poor man’s worldly interest to
cushion the truth as to what had been done for him. He might have enjoyed
the benefit of the work of Christ, and yet avoided the rough path of
testimony for His name in the face of the world’s hostility. He might have
enjoyed his eyesight, and, at the same time, retained his place within the
pale of respectable religious profession. He might have reaped the fruit of
Christ’s work and yet escaped the reproach of confessing His name.
“How often is this the case! Alas, how often! Thousands are very
well pleased to hear of what Jesus has done; but they do not want
to be identified with His outcast and rejected Name. In other
words, to use a modem and very popular phrase, ‘They want to
make the best of both worlds’ — a sentiment from which every
true-hearted lover of Christ must shrink with abhorrence — an idea
of which genuine faith is wholly ignorant. It is obvious that the
subject of our narrative knew nothing of any such maxim. He had
had his eyes opened, and he could not but speak of it, and tell who
did it, and how it was done. He was an honest man. He had no
mixed motives. No sinister object, no undercurrent. Happy for him?
(C.H.M.).
“He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed
mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash.” There
is one little detail here which strikingly evidences the truthfulness of this
narrative, and that is one little omission in this man’s description of what
the Savior had done to him. It is to be noted that the beggar made no
reference to Christ spitting on the ground and making clay of the spittle.
Being blind he could not see what the Lord did, though he could feel what
He applied! It is in just such little undesigned coincidences, such artless
touches, as this, that makes the more apparent the genuineness of these
Divine narratives.
“Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not”
(

John 9:12)..69
Equally commendable was the modesty of this man here. He acted up to
the light that he had, but he did not go beyond it. He pretended not to
possess a knowledge not yet his. O that we were all as simple and honest.
When the neighbors enquired, “Is not this he that sat and begged?”, he
answered, “I am he” — though it is most unseemly for a Christian to
advertise the sins of his unregenerate days, yet it is equally wrong for him
to deny what he then was when plainly asked. Next, they had asked, “How
were thine eyes opened?”, and he unhesitatingly told them, not forgetting
to boldly confess the name of his Benefactor. Now they said, “Where is
he?”, and he frankly replied, “I know not.” The babe in Christ is guileless
and hesitates not to acknowledge that he is ignorant of much. But it is sad
to observe how pride so often comes in and destroys this simplicity and
honesty. Christian reader, and especially the babe in Christ, hesitate not to
avow your ignorance; when asked a question that you cannot answer,
honestly reply, “I know not.” Feign not a knowledge you do not possess,
and have not recourse to speculation.
“They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind”
(

John 9:13).
“Now the former blind beggar was to become an object of special
notice by the Pharisees. Very likely many of them had passed him
unheeded. A blind beggar! Which of them would bestow a thought
on him whose condition they regarded as an evidence that he was
born in sin? But the beggar, no longer blind, was quite a different
matter. Were they anxious to learn of the favor he had received in
order to honor his Benefactor, or to solicit in their turn favors from
Him? Quite the contrary. Their efforts were directed to discredit
the miracle as being wrought by One sent from God. He who had
shortly before affirmed of Himself in the Temple court, that He was
God, had now opened that man’s eyes. The insult to the Divine
Majesty, as the Jews regarded it, in asserting His Deity, was
followed by this miracle, of which the beggar in the Temple
precincts was the subject. To discredit the Lord was their purpose.
He was a Sabbath-breaker they declared; and therefore that miracle
must be disowned as being any display of almighty power and
benevolence” (C. E. Stuart).
“They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.” This was a
much more severe trial for him than what he had just passed through at the.70
hands of his neighbors. It was a real test of his faith. The opposition of the
Pharisees against the Lord, and their desire to get rid of Him were well
known: and their determination to excommunicate any one who confessed
Him as the Christ was no secret (see verse 22). To face them, then, was
indeed an ordeal. Alas that this part of the history is being repeated today.
Repeated it certainly is, for the ones who will treat worst the young
believer are not open infidels and atheists, but those who are loudest in
their religious professions. These Pharisees have many successors: their
tribe is far from being extinct, and their descendants will be found
occupying the same position of religious leadership as did their fathers of
old.
“And it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened
his eyes” (

John 9:14).
There are two observations which we would make on this verse. First, our
Lord here teaches us that the words of the fourth commandment “In it [the
Sabbath] thou shalt not do any work,” are not to be taken absolutely, that
is, without any modification. By His own example He has shown us that
works of necessity and also works of mercy are permissible. This 14th
verse therefore reflects the glory of Christ. It was the Sabbath day: how
was He occupied? First, (and note the order) He had gone to the Temple,
there to minister God’s Word; second, now He is seen ministering in mercy
to one in need. Perfect example has He left us.
In the next place, we would call attention to the fact that our Lord knew
full well that His performing of this miracle on the Sabbath would give
offense to His enemies. He proceeded to its execution, nevertheless. We
have another illustration of the same principle in

Mark 7:2:
“When they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is
to say, with unwashen hands, they found fault.”
Though rendering perfect obedience to all the laws of God, Christ paid no
regard to the commandments of men. Here too He has left us a perfect
example. Let not the believer be brought into bondage by heeding the
mandates of religious legislators, when their rules and regulations have no
support from the Holy Scriptures.
“Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his
sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and i
washed, and do see” (

John 9:15)..71
This was an honest effort on the part of these Pharisees to investigate the
teaching of that blessed One whose voice they had recently heard and
whose power had now been so signally displayed. They — or the
influential among them at least, for in this Gospel “the Jews” ever refer to
the religious leaders or their agents — had already agreed that if any did
confess that Jesus was the Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue
(see verse 22). Thus had they deliberately closed their eyes against the
truth, and therefore it was impossible that they should now discern it,
blinded by prejudice as they were. Their object here was twofold: to
discredit the miracle, and to intimidate the one who had been the subject of
it. Note the form of their question. They, too, asked the beggar how he had
received his sight, not who was the one who had so graciously blest him.
“He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do
see.” The enlightened beggar was not to be cowed. He had returned a
straightforward answer to the inquiries of his neighbors, he is equally
honest and bold now before the open enemies of Christ. His faithful
testimony here teaches us an important lesson. Behind his human
interrogators it is not difficult to discern the great Enemy of souls. Satan it
is who hurls the fiery darts, even though he employs religious professors as
his instruments. But they fall powerless upon the shield of faith, and it is
this which is illustrated here. One may be the veriest babe in Christ, but so
long as he walks according to the measure of light which God has granted,
the Devil is powerless to harm him. It is when we quench that light, or
when we are unfaithful to Christ, that we become powerless, and fall an
easy prey to the Enemy. But the one before us was acting up to the light
that he had, therefore the lion roared in vain against him.
“Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God,
because he keepeth not the Sabbath day” (

John 9:16).
A striking contrast is this from what has just been before us. These
Pharisees had turned their backs upon the Light, and therefore was their
darkness now even more profound. Devoid of spiritual discernment they
were altogether incapable of determining what was a right use and lawful
employment of the Sabbath and what was not. They understood not that
“The sabbath was made for man” (

Mark 2:27), that is, for the benefit of
his soul and the good of his body. True, the day which God blest at the
beginning was to be kept holy, but it was never intended to bar out works
of necessity and works of mercy, as they should have known from the Old.72
Testament Scriptures. In thus finding fault with Christ because He had
opened the eyes of this blind beggar on the Sabbath day, they did but
expose their ignorance and exhibit their spiritual blindness.
“Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And
there was a division among them” (

John 9:16).
We wonder if one of those who spoke up thus was Nicodemus! The
argument used here is strictly parallel with the words of that “Master in
Israel” which we find in

John 3:1, 2. That we are next told, “And there
was a division among them” shows that the second speakers held their
ground and refused to side-in with the open enemies of our Lord. On this
verse the Puritan Bullinger remarked, “All divisions are not necessarily
evil, nor all concord and unity necessarily good”!
“They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that
he hath opened thine eyes?” (

John 9:17).
The Devil is powerless in his efforts to gain an advantage over the sheep of
Christ. Repulsed for the moment by the unexpected friendliness toward
Christ on the part of some of the Pharisees, the Enemy turned his attention
once more to the beggar: “They say unto the blind man again”: note the
frequency with which this word is used in this passage — verses 15, 17,
24, 26. The Devil’s perseverance frequently puts our instability to shame.
“What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes?” A searching
question was this. The faith of the beggar was now openly challenged: he
must now either confess or deny his Benefactor. But he did not flinch or
dissemble. Boldly he answered, “He is a prophet.” Divine grace did not fail
him in the hour of need, but enabled him to stand firm and witness a good
confession. Blessed be His name, the grace of God is as sufficient for the
youngest and feeblest as for the most mature and established.
“He said. He is a prophet” (

John 9:17). There is a decided advance
here. When answering his neighbors, the beggar simply referred to Christ
as, “A man that is called Jesus” (verse 11); but now he owns Him as One
whose word is Divine, for a “prophet” was a mouthpiece of God. This was
most blessed. At first he had been occupied solely with the work of Christ,
now he is beginning to discern the glory of His person; increased
intelligence was his. Nor is God arbitrary in the bestowment of this. When
the believer walks faithfully according to the light which he has, more is.73
given to him. It was so here; it is so now. This is the meaning of that verse
which has perplexed so many:
“Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall
be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even
that which he seemeth to have” (

Luke 8:18):
the reference here being to light used and unused-note the “therefore”
which looks back to verse 16. In Matthew’s account it reads, “For
whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance.”
A striking illustration of this is furnished in John 9. Light the beggar now
had; and that light he let shine forth, consequently more was given to him;
later, we shall see how a more abundance” was vouchsafed to him.
“He said, He is a prophet.” This is not the first time we have had Christ
owned as “prophet” in this Gospel. In

John 4:19 we read that the
woman of Samaria said to the Savior at the well, “I perceive that thou art a
prophet.” In

John 6:14 we are told, “Then those men, when they had
seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that
should come into the world.” Once more, in

John 7:40 we read,
“Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said,
Of a truth this is the prophet.”
These references are in striking accord with the character and theme of this
fourth Gospel. A prophet was the mouthpiece of God, and the great
purpose of John’s Gospel, as intimated in its opening verse, is to portray
the Lord Jesus as “the Word”!
“But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been
blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him
that had received his sight” (

John 9:18).
How skeptical are the unregenerate! “Children in whom is no faith
(

Deuteronomy 32:20) is what the Scriptures term them. A wonderful
miracle had been performed, but these Jews were determined not to believe
it. The simple but emphatic testimony of the one on whom it had been
wrought went for nothing. What a lesson is this for the young convert.
Marvelling at what the Savior has so graciously done for and in him,
anxious that others should know Him for themselves, he goes forth
testifying of His grace and power. Full of zeal and hope, he expects that it
will be a simple matter to convince others of the reality of what the Lord.74
has clone for him. Ah! it will not be long before his bright expectations
meet with disappointment. He will soon discover something of that
dreadful and inveterate unbelief which fills the hearts of his unsaved
fellows. He must be shown that he has no power to convince them; that
nothing but a miracle of mercy, the putting forth of invincible power by
God Himself, is sufficient to overcome the enmity of the carnal mind.
“And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was
born blind? how then doth he now see?” (

John 9:19).
This was a desperate move. They had been unable to intimidate the one
who had been dealt with so graciously by Christ. They were unable to meet
the arguments which had been made by some of the more friendly
Pharisees. They now decide to summon the beggar’s parents. It was their
last hope. If they could succeed in getting them to deny that their son had
been born blind, the miracle would be discredited. With this object in view
they arraign the parents. And Satan still seeks to discredit the witness of
the young Christian by getting his relatives to testify against him! This is an
oft-used device of his. Let us daily seek grace from God that we may so
act in the home that those nearest to us will have no just ground for
condemning our profession.
“His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son,
and that he was born blind: But by what means he now seeth, we
know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age;
ask him: he shall speak for himself” (

John 9:20, 21).
How this serves to expose the folly of a wish we have often heard
expressed. People say, “O that I had lived in Palestine during the days of
Christ’s public ministry; it had been so much easier to have believed in
Him!” They suppose that if only they had witnessed some of the wonderful
works of our Lord, unbelief had been impossible. How little such people
know about the real nature and seat of unbelief; and how little acquainted
must they be with the four Gospels. These plainly record the fact (making
no effort at all either to conceal or excuse it) that again and again the Lord
Jesus put forth His supernatural power, producing the most amazing
effects, and yet the great majority of those who stood by were nothing
more than temporarily impressed. It was so here in the passage before us.
Even the parents of this man born blind believed not on Christ. They were
evidently afraid of their inquisitors; and yet their answer nonplussed the
Pharisees..75
“These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews”
(

John 9:22).
They represented a large class of religious professors who surround us on
every side today — in such bondage are men and women, otherwise
intelligent, to religious leaders and authorities. How true it is that “the fear
of man bringeth a snare.” The only ones who are fearless before men are
those who truly fear God. This is one of our daily needs: to cry earnestly
unto the Lord that He will put His “fear” upon us.
“These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for
the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he
was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (

John 9:22).
Mark here the desperate lengths to which prejudice will carry men. They
were determined not to believe. They had made up their minds that no
evidence should change their opinions, that no testimony should have any
weight with them. It reminds us very much of what we read of in Acts 7.
At the close of Stephen’s address we read that his enemies “stopped their
ears, and ran upon him with one accord” (verse 57). This is just what these
Pharisees did, and it is what many are doing today. And this is the most
dangerous attitude a sinner can assume. So long as a man is honest and
open-minded, there is hope for him, no matter how ignorant or vicious he
may be. But when a man has deliberately turned his back upon the truth,
and refuses to be influenced by any evidence, it is very rare indeed that
such an one is ever brought into the light.
“Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him” (

John 9:23).
Typically, this tells us that the young and tried believer must not look to
man for help; his resources must be in God alone. This man might well
have expected his parents to be filled with gratitude at their son’s eyes
being opened, that they would perceive how God had wrought a miracle of
mercy upon him, and that they would readily stand by and corroborate his
witness before this unfriendly tribunal. But little help did he receive from
them. The onus was thrown back upon himself. And this line in the picture
is not without its due significance. The young believer might well expect
his loved ones to appreciate and rejoice over the blessed change they must
see in him; but oftentimes they are quite indifferent if not openly
antagonistic. So too with our fellow-Christians. If we look to them for help
when we get in a tight place, they will generally fail us. And it is perhaps.76
well that it should be so. Anything that really casts us upon God Himself is
a blessing, even though it be disguised and appear to us a calamity at the
time. Let us learn then to “have no confidence in the flesh” (

Philippians
3:3), but let our expectation be in the Lord, who will fail us not.
Let the interested student ponder the following questions:
1. What is meant by “Give God the praise” (verse 24)? Cf.

Joshua
7:19.
2. Explain the first half of verse 25 so as not to conflict with verse 33.
3. What other verse in John’s Gospel does the second half of verse 29
call to mind?
4. What connection is there between verse 31 and what has gone
before?
5. Why did Christ wait till the beggar had been “east out” (verse 34)
before He revealed Himself as the Son of God (verse 35)?
6. Why are we told nothing more about the beggar after what is said in
verse 38?
7. What is the meaning of verse 39? Contrast

John 3:17..77
CHAPTER 33
CHRIST AND THE BLIND BEGGAR
(CONCLUDED)

JOHN 9:24-41
The following is offered as an Analysis of the passage which is to be before
us: —
1. The beggar challenged and his reply: verses 24, 25.
2. The beggar cross-examined and his response: verses 26, 27.
3. The beggar reviled: verses 28, 29.
4. The beggar defeats his judges: verses 30-33.
5. The beggar cast out by the Pharisees, sought out by Christ: verses
34, 35.
6. The beggar worships Christ as the Son of God: verses 36-38.
7. Christ’s condemnation of the Pharisees: verses 39-41.
We arrive now at the closing scenes in this inspired narrative of the Lord’s
dealings with the blind beggar and the consequent hostility of the
Pharisees. In it there is much that is reprehensible, but much too that is
praiseworthy. The enmity of the carnal mind is again exhibited to our view;
while the blessed fruit of Divine grace is presented for our admiration. The
wickedness of the Pharisees finds its climax in their excommunication of
the beggar; the workings of grace in his heart reaches its culmination by
bringing him to the feet of the Savior as a devoted worshipper.
The passage before us records the persistent efforts of the Pharisees to
shake the testimony of this one who had received his sight. Their blindness,
their refusal to be influenced by the most convincing evidence, their enmity
against the beggar’s Benefactor, and their unjust and cruel treatment of
him, vividly forecasted the treatment which the Lord Himself was shortly
to receive at their hands. On the other hand, the fidelity of the beggar, his
refusal to be intimidated by those in authority, his Divinely-given power to.78
non-plus his judges, his being cast out of Judaism, and his place as a
worshipper at the feet of the Son of God on the outside, anticipated what
was to be exemplified again and again in the history of the Lord’s disciples
following His own apprehension.
“Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him,
Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner” (

John
9:24).
The one to whom sight had been so marvelously imparted had been
removed from the court of the Sanhedrin while the examination of his
parents had been going on. But he is now brought in before his judges
again. The examination of his parents had signally failed to either produce
any discrepancy between the statements of the parents and that of their
son, or to bring out any fact to the discredit of Christ. A final effort was
therefore made now to shake the testimony of the man himself.
“Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give
God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.” These shameless
inquisitors pretended that during his absence they had discovered
something to the utter discredit of the Lord Jesus. Things had come to
light, so they feigned, which proved Him to be more than an ordinary bad
character — such is the force of the Greek word here for “sinner,”
compare its usage in

Luke 7:34, 37, 39; 15:2; 19:7. It is evident that the
Sanhedrin would lead the beggar to believe that facts regarding his
Benefactor had now come to their knowledge which showed He could not
be the Divinely-directed author of his healing. Therefore, they now address
him in a solemn formula, identical With that used by Joshua when
arraigning Achan — see

Joshua 7:19. They adjured him by the living
God to tell the whole truth. They demanded that he forswear himself, and
join with them in some formal statement which was dishonoring to Christ.
It was a desperate and blasphemous effort at intimidation.
“He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not:
one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see”
(

John 9:25).
It is refreshing to turn for a moment from the unbelief and enmity of the
Pharisees to mark the simplicity and honesty of this babe in Christ. The
Latin Vulgate renders the first clause of this verse, “If he is a sinner I know
not.” The force of his utterance seems to be this: ‘I do not believe that He.79
is a sinner; I will not charge Him with being one; I refuse to unite with you
in saying that He is.’ Clear it is that the contents of this verse must not be
explained in a way so as to clash with what we have in verse 33, where the
beggar owned that Christ was “of God.” The proper way is to view it in
the light of the previous verse. There we find the Pharisees adjuring him to
join with them in denouncing Christ as a sinner. This the beggar flatly
refused to do, and refused in such a way as to show that he declined to
enter into a controversy with his judges about the character of Christ.
“Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas
I was blind, now I see.” This was tantamount to saying, ‘Your charge
against the person of Christ is altogether beside the point. You are
examining me in connection with what Christ has done for me, therefore I
refuse to turn aside and discuss His person.’ The Pharisees were trying to
change the issue, but the beggar would not be side-tracked. He held them
to the indisputable fact that a miracle of mercy had been wrought upon
him. Thereupon he boldly declared again what the Lord had done for him.
That his eyes had been opened could not be gainsaid: all the argument and
attacks of the Pharisees could not shake him. Let us not only admire his
fearlessness and truthfulness, but seek grace to emulate him.
“One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” These are words
which every born-again person can apply to himself. There are many things
of which the young believer has little knowledge: there are many points in
theology and prophecy upon which he has no light: but “one thing” he does
know — he knows that the eyes of his understanding have been opened.
He knows this because he has seen himself as a lost sinner, seen his
imminent danger, seen the Divinely-appointed refuge from the wrath to
come, seen the sufficiency of Christ to save him. Can a man repent and not
know it? can he believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to the saving of his soul
and not know it? can he pass from death unto life, be delivered from the
power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, and
not know it? We do not believe it. The saints of God are a people that
“know.” They know Whom they have believed (

2 Timothy 1:12). They
know that their Redeemer liveth (

Job 19:26). They know the), have
passed from death unto life (

1 John 3:14). They know that all things
work together for their good (

Romans 8:28). They know that when the
Lord Jesus shall appear they shall be like Him (

1 John 3:2). Christianity
treats not of theories and hypotheses, but of certainties and realities. Rest.80
not, dear reader, till you can say, “One thing I know, that, whereas I was
blind, now I see.”
“Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he
thine eyes?” (

John 9:26).
Unable to get this man to deny the miracle which had been wrought upon
him, unable to bring him to entertain an evil opinion of Christ, his judges
inquire once more about the manner in which he had been healed. This
inquiry of theirs was merely a repetition of their former question — see
verse 15. It is evident that their object in repeating this query was the hope
that he would vary in his account and thus give them grounds for
discrediting his testimony. They were seeking to “shake his evidence”: they
hoped he would contradict himself.
“Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine
eyes?” This illustrates again how that unbelief is occupied with the modus
operandi rather than with the result itself. How you were brought to Christ
— the secondary causes, where you were at the time, the instrument God
employed — is of little moment. The one thing that matters is whether or
not the Lord has opened the sin-blinded eyes of your heart. Whether you
were saved in the fields or in a church, whether you were on your knees at
a “mourner’s bench” or upon your back in bed, is a detail of very little
value. Faith is occupied not with the manner in which you held out your
hand to receive God’s gift, but with Christ Himself! But unbelief is
occupied with the “how” rather than with the “whom.”
“He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear:
wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?”
(

John 9:27).
With honest indignation he turns upon his unscrupulous inquisitors and
refuses to waste time in repeating what he had already told them so simply
and plainly. It is quite useless to discuss the things of God with those
whose hearts are manifestly closed against Him. When such people
continue pressing their frivolous or blasphemous inquiries, only one course
remains open, and that is
“Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own
conceit” (

Proverbs 26:5)..81
This Divine admonition,, has puzzled some, because in the preceding verse
we are told, Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like
unto him.” But the seeming contradiction is easily explained. When God
says, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto
him,” the meaning is, I must not answer a fool in a foolish manner, for this
would make me a sharer of his folly. But when God says, “Answer a fool
according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit,” the meaning is,
that I must answer him in a way to expose his folly, lest he imagine that he
has succeeded in propounding a question which is unanswerable. This is
exactly what the beggar did here in the lesson: he answered in such a way
as to make evident the folly and unbelief of his judges.
“Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are
Moses’ disciples” (

John 9:28).
The word “reviled” is hardly strong enough to express the original. The
Greek word signifies that the Pharisees hurled their anathemas against him
by pronouncing him an execrable fellow. How true to life! Unable to fairly
meet his challenge, unable to justify their course, they resort to villification.
To have recourse to invectives is ever the last resort of a defeated
opponent. Whenever you find men calling their opponents hard names, it is
a sure sign that their own cause has been defeated.
“They reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple.” The man of the world
has little difficulty in locating a genuine “disciple” of Christ. This man had
not formally avowed himself as such, yet the Pharisees had no difficulty in
deciding that he was one. His whole demeanor was so different from the
cringing servility which they were accustomed to receive from their own
followers, and the wisdom with which he had replied to all their questions,
stamped him plainly as one who had learned of the God-man. So it is
today. Real Christians need no placards on their backs or buttons on their
coat lapels in order to inform their fellows that they belong to the Lord
Jesus. If I am walking as a child of light, men will soon exclaim, “Thou art
his disciple.’’ The Lord enable writer and reader to give as clear and
ringing a testimony in our lives as this beggar did.
“But we are Moses’ disciples.” A lofty boast was this, but as baseless as
haughty. The Lord had already told them,
“Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote
of me” (

John 5:46)..82
This too has its present-day application. Multitudes are seeking shelter
behind high pretensions and honored names. Many there are who term
themselves Calvinists that Calvin would be ashamed to own. Many call
themselves Lutherans who neither manifest the faith nor emulate the works
of the great Reformer. Many go under the name of Baptists to whom our
Lord’s forerunner, were he here in the flesh, would say, “Flee from the
wrath to come.” And countless numbers claim to be Protestants who
scarcely know what the term itself signifies. It is one thing to say “We are
disciples,” it is quite another to make demonstration of it.
“We know that God spake unto Moses” (

John 9:29).
Such knowledge was purely intellectual, something which they venerated
as a religious tradition handed down by their forebears; but it neither
moved their hearts nor affected their lives. And that is the real test of a
man’s orthodoxy. An orthodox creed, intellectually apprehended, counts
for nothing if it fails to mould the life of the one professing it. I may claim
to regard the Bible as the inspired and infallible Word of God, yea, and be
ready to defend this fundamental article of the faith; I may refuse to heed
the infidelistic utterances of the higher critics, and pride myself on my
doctrinal soundness — as did these Pharisees. But of what worth is this if I
know not what it means to tremble at that Word, and if my walk is not
regulated by its precepts? None at all! Rather will such intellectual light
serve only to increase my condemnation.
“As for this fellow, we know not from whence he is”
(

John 9:29).
Proofs went for nothing. The testimony of this man and the witness of his
parents had been spread before these Pharisees, yet they believed not. Ah!
faith does not come that way. Hearing the testimony of God’s saints will
no more regenerate lost sinners than listening to the description of a dinner
I ate will feed some other hungry man. That is one reason why the writer
has no patience with “testimony meetings”: another is, because he finds no
precedent for them in the Word of God. But this beggar had faith, and his
faith came as the result of being made the personal subject of the mighty
operation of God. Nothing short of this avails. Sinners may witness
miracles as Pharaoh did; they may listen to the testimony of a believer as
these Pharisees; they may be terrified by the convulsions of nature, but
none of these things will ever lead a single sinner to believe in Christ..83
“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”
(

Romans 10:17)
— by the Word applied in the omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit.
“As for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.” How inconsistent is
unbelief! In the seventh chapter of this Gospel we find the Jews refusing to
believe on Christ because they declared they did know whence He was.
Hear them, Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ
cometh, no man knoweth whence he is” (

John 7:27). But now these
Pharisees object against Christ, “We know not from whence he is.” Thus
do those who reject the truth of God contradict themselves.
“The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous
thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened
mine eyes” (

John 9:30).
Quick to seize the acknowledgement of the ignorance as to whence Christ
came, the beggar turned it against them. Though he spoke in the mildest of
terms yet the stinging import of his words is evident. It was as though he
had said, “You who profess yourselves fully qualified to guide the people
on all points, and yet in the dark on a matter like this!” A poor beggar he
might be, and as such cut off from many of the advantages they had
enjoyed, nevertheless, he knew what they did not — he knew that Christ
was “of God” (verse 33)! How true it is that God reveals things to babes in
Christ which He hides from the wise and prudent! hides because they are
“wise” — wise in their own conceits. Nothing shuts out Divine illumination
so effectively as prejudice and pride: nothing tends to blind the heart more
than egotism. “If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let
him become a fool, that he may be wise” (

1 Corinthians 3:18); “Proud,
knowing nothing” (

1 Timothy 6:4).
“Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a
worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth”
(

John 9:31).
This verse like many another must not be divorced from its setting. Taken
absolutely, these words “God heareth not sinners,’’ are not true. God
“heard” the cry of Ishmael (

Genesis 21:17); He “heard” the groanings
of the children of Israel in Egypt, long before He redeemed them
(

Exodus 2:24); He “heard” and answered the prayer of the wicked
Manasseh (

2 Chronicles 33:10-13). But reading this verse in the light of.84
its context its meaning is apparent. The Pharisees had said of Christ, “We
know that this man is a sinner” (verse 24). Now says the beggar, “We
know that God heareth not sinners,” which was one of their pet doctrines.
Thus, once more, did the one on trial turn the word of his judges against
themselves. If Christ were an impostor as they avowed, then how came it
that God has assisted Him to work this miracle?
“Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the
eyes of one that was born blind” (

John 9:32).
This was his reply to their statement that they were Moses’ disciples. He
reminds them that not even in Moses’ day, not from the beginning of the
world had such a miracle been performed as had been wrought on him. It is
a significant fact that among all the miracles wrought by Moses, never did
he give sight to a blind man, nor did any of the prophets ever open the eyes
of one born blind. That was something that only Christ did!
“If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.” This beggar was now
endowed with a wisdom to which these learned Pharisees were strangers.
How often is this same principle illustrated in the Scriptures. The Hebrew
lad from the dungeon, not the wise men of Egypt, was the one to interpret
the dream of Pharaoh. Daniel, not the wise men of Babylon, deciphered the
mysterious writing on the walls of Belshazzar’s palace. Unlettered
fishermen, not the scribes, were taken into the confidences of the Savior.
So here, a mouth and wisdom were given to this babe in Christ which the
doctors of the Sanhedrin were unable to resist.
“If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.” What a beautiful
illustration is this of

Proverbs 4:18! — “But the path of the just is as the
shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” First, this
beggar had referred to his Benefactor as “a man that is called Jesus” (verse
11). Second, he had owned Him as “a propehet” (verse 17). And now he
declares that Christ was a man of God.” There is also a lesson here pointed
for us: as we walk according to the light we have, God gives us more.
Here is the reason why so many of God’s children are in the dark
concerning much of His truth — they are not faithful to the light they do
have. May God exercise both writer and reader about this so that we may
earnestly seek from Him the grace which we so sorely need to make us
faithful and true to all we have received of Him..85
“They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in
sins, and dost thou teach us?” (

John 9:34).
Alas, how tragically does history repeat itself. These men were too
arrogant to receive anything from this poor beggar. They were graduates
from honored seats of learning, therefore was it far too much beneath their
dignity to be instructed by this unsophisticated disciple of Christ. And how
many a preacher there is today, who in his fancied superiority, scorns the
help which ofttimes a member of his congregation could give him. Glorying
in their seminary education, they cannot allow that an ignorant layman has
light on the Scriptures which they do not possess. Let a Spirit-taught
layman seek to show the average preacher “the way of the Lord more
perfectly,” and he must not be surprised if his pastor says — if not in so
many words, plainly by his bearing and actions — “dost thou teach us?”
How marvellously pertinent is this two-thousand-year-old Book to our
own times!
“And they cast him out” (

John 9:34).
“Happy man! He had followed the light, in simplicity and sincerity.
He had borne an honest testimony to the truth. His eyes had been
opened to see and his lips to testify. It was no matter of wrong or
wicked lewdness, but simple truth, and for that they cast him out.
He had never troubled them in the days of his blindness and
beggary. Perhaps some of them may have proudly and
ostentatiously tossed him a trifling alms as they walked past, thus
getting a name amongst their fellows for benevolence; but now this
blind beggar had become a powerful witness. Words of truth now
flowed from his lips — truth far too powerful and piercing for them
to stand, so they ‘thrust him out.’ Happy, thrice happy man! again
we say, This was the brightest moment in his career. These men,
though they knew it not, had done him a real service. They had
thrust him out into the most honored position of identification with
Christ as the despised and rejected One” (C.H.M.).
“And they cast him out.” How cruelly and unjustly will religious professors
treat the real people of God! When these Pharisees failed to intimidate this
man they excommunicated him from the Jewish church. To an Israelite the
dread of excommunication was second only to the fear of death: it cut him
off from all the outward privileges of the commonwealth of Israel, and
made him an object of scorn and derision. But all through the ages some of.86
the faithful witnesses of Christ have met with similar or even worse
treatment. Excommunication, persecution, imprisonment, torture, death,
are the favorite weapons of ecclesiastical tyrants. Thus were the Waldenses
treated; so Luther, Bunyan, Ridley, the Huguenots; and so, in great
probability, will it be again in the near future.
“And they cast him out.” Ah! Christian reader, if you did as this man you
would know something of his experience. If you bore faithful testimony for
Christ by lip and life; if you refused to walk arm-in-arm with the world, and
lived here as a stranger and pilgrim; if you declined to follow the customs
of the great religious crowd, and regulated your walk by the Word, you
would be very unpopular — perhaps the very thing that you most fear!
You would be cut off from your former circle of friends, as not wanted; cut
off because your ways condemned theirs. Yea, if true to God’s Word you
might be turned out of your church as an heretic or stirrer up of strife.
“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found
him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?”
(

John 9:35).
This is indeed precious. No sooner had the Sanhedrin excommunicated the
beggar than the Savior sought him out. How true it is that those who
honor God are honored by Him. Faithfully had this man walked according
to his measure of light, now more is to be given him. Great is the
compassion of Christ. He knew full well the weight of the trial which had
fallen upon this newly-born soul, and He proved Himself “a very present
help in trouble.” He cheered this man with gracious words. Yea, He
revealed Himself more fully to him than to any other individual, save the
Samaritan adulteress. He plainly avowed His deity: He presented Himself
in His highest glory as “the Son of God.”
“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he
said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” The connection
between this and the previous verse should be carefully noted: the beggar
was “cast out” before he knew Christ as the Son of God. The Nation as
such denied this truth, and only the despised few on the outside of
organized Judaism had it revealed to them. There is a message here greatly
needed by many of the Lord’s people today who are inside man-made
systems where much of the truth of God is denied. True, if they are the
Lord’s, they are saved; but not to them will Christ reveal Himself, while
they continue in a position which is dishonoring to Him. It is the Holy.87
Spirit’s office to take of the things of Christ and to show them unto us. But
while we are identified with and lend our support to that which grieves
Him, He will not delight our souls with revelations of the excellencies of
our Savior. Nowhere in Scripture has God promised to honor those who
dishonor Him. God is very jealous of the honor of His Son and He
withholds many spiritual blessings from those who fellowship that which is
an offense to Him. On the outside with Christ is infinitely preferable to
being on the inside with worldly professors who know Him not. The time
is already arrived when many of God’s people are compelled to choose
between these two alternatives. Far better to be cast out because of
faithfulness to Christ, or to “come out” (

2 Corinthians 6:17) because of
others’ unfaithfulness to Christ, than to remain in the Laodicean system
which is yet to be “spued out” by Christ (

Revelation 3:16). Whatever
loss may be entailed by leaving unscriptural and worldly churches, it will be
more than compensated by the Lord. It was so with this beggar.
“He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on
him?” (

John 9:36).
It is indeed beautiful to mark the spirit of this man in the presence of
Christ. Before the Sanhedrin he was bold as a lion, but before the Son of
God he is meek and lowly. Here he is seen addressing Him as “Lord.”
These graces, seemingly so conflicting, are ever found together. Wherever
there is uncompromising boldness toward men, there is humility before
God: it is the God-fearing man who is fearless before the Lord’s enemies.
“And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that
talketh with thee” (

John 9:37).
This is one of the four instances in this Gospel where the Lord Jesus
expressly declared His Divine Sonship. In verse 25 He foretold that “the
dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.”
Here He says “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?… it is he that talketh
with thee.” In

John 10:36 He asked “Say ye of him, whom the Father
hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said,
I am the Son of God?” In

John 11:4 He told His disciples “This sickness
is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be
glorified thereby.” Nowhere in the other Gospels does He explicitly affirm
that He was the Son of God. John’s record of each of these four utterances
of the Savior is in beautiful accord with the special theme and design of his
Gospel..88
“And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him”
(

John 9:38).
What a lovely climax is this in the spiritual history of the blind beggar!
How it illustrates the fact that when God begins a good work He continues
and completes it. All through the sacred narrative here the experiences of
this man exemplify the history of each soul that is saved by grace. At first,
seen in his wretchedness and helplessness: sought out by the Lord: pointed
to that which speaks of the Word: made the subject of the supernatural
operation of God, sight imparted. Then given opportunity to testify to his
acquaintances of the merciful work which had been wrought upon him.
Severely tested by the Lord’s enemies, he, nevertheless, witnessed a good
confession. Denied the support of his parents, he is cast back the more
upon God. Arraigned by the religious authorities, and boldly answering
them according to the light he had, more was given him. Confounding his
opponents, he is reviled by them. Confessing that Christ was of God, he is
east out of the religious systems of his day. Now sought out by the Savior,
he is taught the excellency of His person which results in him taking his
place at the feet of the Son of God as a devoted worshipper. And here,
most suitably, the Holy Spirit leaves him, for it is there he will be forever
— a worshipper in the presence of the One who did so much for him. Truly
naught but Divine wisdom could have combined with this historical
narrative an accurate portrayal of the representative experiences of an elect
soul.
“And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they
which see not might see; and that they which see might be made
blind” (

John 9:39).
“This is deeply solemn! For judgment I am come into this world.’ How is
this? Did He not come to seek and to save that which was lost? So He
Himself tells us (

Luke 19:10), why then speak of ‘judgment’? The
meaning is simply this: the object of His mission was salvation; the moral
effect of His life was judgment. He judged no one, and yet He judged every
one.
“It is well to see this effect of the character and life of Christ down here.
He was the light of the world, and this light acted in a double way. It
convicted and converted, it judged and it saved. Furthermore it dazzled, by
its heavenly brightness, all those who thought they saw; while, at the same
time, it lightened all those who really felt their moral and spiritual.89
blindness. He came not to judge, but to save; and yet when come, He
judged every man, and put every man to the test. He was different from all
around Him, as light in the midst of darkness; and yet He saved all who
accepted the judgment and took their true place.
“The same thing is observed when we contemplate the cross of our
Lord Jesus Christ. ‘For the preaching of the cross is to them that
perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of
God… But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block,
and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are
called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the
wisdom of God’ (

1 Corinthians 1:18, 23, 24). Looked at from a
human point of view, the cross presented a spectacle of weakness
and foolishness. But, looked at from a Divine point of view, it was
the exhibition of power and wisdom, ‘The Jew’, looking at the
cross through the hazy medium of traditionary religion stumbled
over it; and ‘the Greek’, looking at it from the fancied heights of
philosophy, despised it as a contemptible thing. But the faith of a
poor sinner, looking at the cross from the depths of conscious guilt
and need, found in it a Divine answer to every question, a Divine
supply for every need. The death of Christ, like His life, judged
every man, and yet it saves all those who accept the judgment and
take their true place before God” (C.H.M.).
This was all announced from the beginning:
“And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold,
this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel”
(

Luke 2:34).
“And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these
words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them,
If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see;
therefore your sin remaineth” (

John 9:40, 41).
This receives explanation in

John 15:22-24:
“If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but
now they have no cloak (excuse) for their sin. He that hateth Me
hateth My Father also. If I had not done among them the works
which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they
both seen and hated both Me and My Father.”.90
The simple meaning then of these words of Christ to the Pharisees is this:
“If you were sensible of your blindness and really desired light, if you
would take this place before Me, salvation would be yours and no
condemnation would rest upon you. But because of your pride and self-sufficiency,
because you refuse to acknowledge your undone condition,
your guilt remaineth.” How strikingly this confirms our interpretation of
verse 6 and the sequel. The blind man made to see illustrates those who
accept God’s verdict of man’s lost condition; the self-righteous Pharisees
who refused to bow to the Lord’s decision that they were “condemned
already’’ (

John 3:18), continued in their blindness and sin.
Let the interested student carefully ponder the following questions on

John 10:1-10: —
1. What is the “sheepfold” of verse 1?
2. What is “the door” by which the shepherd enters the sheepfold?
(verse 2).
3. Who is “the porter” of verse 3?
4. Leadeth the sheep “out of” what? (verse 3).
5. What is the meaning of “I am the door of the sheep” (verse 7)?
6. What entirely different line of thought does “I am the door” of verse
9 give us?
7. Who is “the thief” of verse 10?.91
CHAPTER 34
CHRIST, THE DOOR

JOHN 10:1-10.
Below is an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:
1. Entrance into the Sheepfold: lawful and unlawful: verses 1, 2.
2. The Shepherd admitted by the porter: verse 3.
3. The Shepherd leading His sheep out of the fold: verses 3, 4.
4. The attitude of the sheep toward strangers: verse 5.
5. Christ’s proverb not understood: verse 6.
6. The true Shepherd and the false shepherds contrasted: verses 7-9.
7. Antichrist and Christ contrasted: verse 10.
As a personal aid to the study of this passage the writer drew up a list of
questions, of which the following are samples: To whom is our Lord
speaking? What was the immediate occasion of His address? Why does He
make reference to a “sheepfold?” What is meant by “climbing up some
other way” into it? What is signified by “the door”? What “sheepfold” is
here in view? — note it is one into which thieves and robbers could climb;
it was one entered by the shepherd; it was one out of which the shepherd
led his sheep. Who does “the porter” bring before us? Such questions
enable us to focalize our thoughts and approach this section with some
degree of definiteness.
Our passage begins with “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” The antecedent of
the you is found in “the Pharisees” of the previous chapter. The occasion
of this word from Christ was the excommunication of the beggar by the
Pharisees (

John 9:34). The mention of “the sheepfold” at once views
these Pharisees in a pastoral relationship. The reference to “thieves and
robbers” climbing up some other way denounced the Pharisees as False
shepherds, and rebuked them for their unlawful conduct. In the course of
this “parable” or “proverb,” the Lord contrasts Himself from the Pharisees.92
as the true Shepherd. These things are clear on the surface, and the
confusion of some of the commentators can only be attributed to their
failure to attend to these simple details.
There are two chief reasons why many have experienced difficulty in
apprehending the Lord’s teaching in this passage: failure to consider the
circumstances under which it was delivered, and failure to distinguish
between the three “doors” here spoken of — there is the “door into the
sheepfold” (verse 1); the “door of the sheep” (verse 7); and the “door” of
salvation (verse 9). In the previous chapter we find our Lord had given
sight to one born blind. This aroused the jealousy of the Pharisees, so that
when the beggar faithfully confessed it was Jesus who had opened his eyes,
they cast him out of the synagogue. When Christ heard of this He at once
sought him out, and revealed Himself as the Son of God. This drew forth
the confession, “Lord, I believe.” Thus did he evidence himself to be one of
“the sheep,” responding to the Shepherd’s voice. Following this, our Lord
announced,
“For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not
might see; and that they which see might be made blind” (

John
9:39).
Some of the Pharisees heard Him, and asked, “Are we blind also?” To
which the Savior replied, “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now
ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” It was the self-confidence
and self-complacency of these Pharisees which proved them to be blind,
and therefore in their sins. Unto them, under these circumstances, did
Christ deliver this memorable and searching proverb of the shepherd and
his sheep.
It will probably be of some help to the reader if we describe briefly the
character of the “sheepfold” which obtains in Eastern lands. In Palestine,
which in the pastoral sections was infested with wild beasts, there was in
each village a large sheepfold, which was the common property of the
native farmers. This sheepfold was protected by a wall some ten or twelve
feet high. When night fell, a number of different shepherds would lead their
flocks up to the door of the fold, through which they passed, leaving them
in the care of the porter, while they went home or sought lodging. At the
door, the porter lay on guard through the night, ready to protect the sheep
against thieves and robbers, or against wild animals which might scale the
walls. In the morning the different shepherds returned. The porter would.93
allow each one to enter through the door, calling by name the sheep which
belonged to his flock. The sheep would respond to his voice, and he would
lead them out to pasture. In the lesson before us this is what the Lord uses
as a figure or proverb.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door into
the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief
and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of
the sheep” (

John 10:1, 2).
The “sheepfold” here is not Heaven, for thieves and robbers do not climb
up into it. Nor is it “The Church” as some have strangely supposed, for the
Shepherd does not lead His sheep out of that, as He does from this fold
(see verse 3). No, the “sheepfold” is manifestly Judaism — in which some
of God’s elect were then to be found — and the contrast pointed in these
opening verses between the true Shepherd and the false ones, between
Christ and the Pharisees. The “door” here must not be confused with “the
Door” of verse 9. Here in verse 1 it is simply contrasted from the “climbing
up some other way.” It signifies, then, the lawful “way” of entrance for the
Shepherd, to those of His sheep then to be found in Judaism.
“But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.”
The simple meaning of this is, that Christ presented Himself to
Israel in a lawful manner, that is, in strict accord with the Holy
Scriptures. “He submitted Himself to all the conditions established
by Him who built the house. Christ answered to all that was written
of the Messiah, and took the path of God’s will in presenting
Himself to the people” (Mr. Darby).
He had been born of a virgin, of the covenant people, of the Judaic stock,
in the royal city — Bethlehem. He had conformed to everything which God
required of an Israelite. He had been “born under the law” (

Galatians
4:4). He was circumcised the eighth day (

Luke 2:21), and subsequently,
at the purification of His mother, He was presented to God in the Temple
(

Luke 2:22).
“To him the porter openeth” (

John 10:3). The word “porter” signifies
door-keeper. The only other time the word occurs in John’s Gospel is in

John 18:16, 17, and how strikingly these two references illustrate, once
more, the law of contrast! “But Peter stood at the door without. Then went
out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake.94
unto her that kept the door (the porter), and brought in Peter. Then saith
the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this
man’s disciples? He saith, I am not.” In John 10 the “porter” refers,
ultimately, to the Holy Spirit, while the door-keeper in John 18 is a woman
that evidently had no sympathy with Christ. In John 10 the porter opens the
door to give the Shepherd access to the sheep, whereas in John 18 the door
is opened that a sheep might gain access to the Shepherd. In John 10 the
sheep run to the Shepherd, but in John 18 the sheep is seen in the midst of
wolves. In John 10 the sheep follow the Shepherd: in John 18 one of the
sheep denies the Shepherd!
“To him the porter openeth.” The “porter” was the one who vouched for
the shepherd and presented him to the sheep. As to the identity of the
“porter” in this proverb there can be no doubt. The direct reference was to
John the Baptist who “prepared the way of the Lord.” He it was who
formally introduced the Shepherd to Israel:
“that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come
baptizing” (

John 1:31),
was his own confession. But, in the wider application, the “porter” here
represented the Holy Spirit, who officially vouched for the credentials of
the Messiah, and who now presents the Savior to each of God’s elect.
“To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice;, and he
calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out” (

John
10:3).
Three things mark the genuine shepherd: first, he entered the fold by “the
door,” and climbed not over the walls, as thieves and robbers did. Second,
he entered the door by “the porter” opening to him. Third, he proved
himself, by “the sheep” recognizing and responding to his voice. Mark,
then, how fully and perfectly these three requirements were met by Christ
in His relation to Israel, thus evidencing Him to be the true Shepherd.
As we have seen, the “door” was the legitimate and appointed entrance
into the fold, and this figure meant that the Messiah came by the road
which Old Testament prophecy had marked out beforehand. The “porter”
presented the shepherd to the sheep. Not only had the prophets borne
witness to Christ, but, in addition, when He appeared, a forerunner
heralded Him, introducing Him to the people. Besides this, when the true
Shepherd of Israel was manifested, the sheep recognized His voice. The.95
true sheep were known to Him, for He called them by name. The call was
to follow Him, and to follow Him was to take their place with the despised
and rejected One outside of Judaism. How beautifully this links up with
what was before us in John 9 it is not difficult to perceive.
In John 9 Christ had shown how that He had entered the door into the
sheepfold, for He had come working the works of God (

John 9:4), and
had thus shown Himself to be in the confidence of the Owner of the fold,
and therefore the approved Shepherd of the flock. The Pharisees, on the
contrary, were resisting Him and attacking the sheep; therefore they must
needs be “thieves and robbers.” The blind beggar was a sample of the
flock, for refusing to listen to the voice of strangers, he, nevertheless, knew
the voice of the Shepherd, and drawn to Him, he found salvation, security,
and sustenance.
All of this, strikingly illustrated in John 9, receives interpretation and
amplification in chapter 10, where we have a blessed commentary on the
condition of the excommunicated one. The Pharisees imagined they had cut
him off from the place of safety and blessing, but the Lord had shown him
that it was only then he had really entered the true place of blessing. Had
he remained inside Judaism he would have been the constant object of the
assaults of the “thieves and robbers”; but now he was in the care of the
true Shepherd, the good Shepherd, who instead of killing him, would die
for him! It is beautiful to compare

John 10:3 with 9:34. The Pharisees’
“casting out” of the poor beggar was, in reality, the Shepherd leading him
out from the barren wilderness of Judaism to the green pastures of
Christianity. Thus are we given to see the Lord Himself behind the human
instru-ments — a marvellous example is this of how God ofttimes employs
even His enemies to accomplish a good turn for His people.
“To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his
own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.” Mark carefully the
qualification here: it is not He calleth the sheep by name, but “he calleth his
own sheep by name.” His “own sheep” were those who had been given to
Him by the Father from all eternity; and when He calls, all of these “sheep”
must come to Him, for it is written, “All that the Father giveth me shall
come to me” (

John 6:37). These “sheep,” then, were the elect of God
among Israel. Not to the Nation at large was Christ’s real ministry; rather
did He come unto “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” That these “lost
sheep” were not coextensive with the whole Nation is clear from the.96
twenty-sixth verse of this chapter, for there we find the Shepherd saying to
unbelieving Israelites, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my
sheep.” The sheep, then, whom Christ “called” during the days of His
earthly ministry were the elect of God, whom He led out of Judaism. This
was strikingly foreshadowed of old. Moses, while estranged from Israel,
kept the flock of his father in other pastures, near “the mount of God”
(

Exodus 3:1).
“And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them,
and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (

John 10:4).
Christ began His ministry inside the fold of Judaism, for it was there His
Jewish sheep were to be found, though mixed with others: from these they
needed to be separated when the true Shepherd appeared. Therefore does
His voice sound, calling the lost sheep of the House of Israel unto Himself.
As they responded, they were put forth outside the fold, to follow Him.
“And the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” Link this up with the
third clause in the previous verse. “He calleth his own sheep by name… and
the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” A number of blessed
illustrations of this are found scattered throughout the Gospels.
“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named
Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him,
Follow me. And he arose, and followed him” (

Matthew 9:9).
Here was a lone sheep of Christ. The Shepherd called him; he recognized
His voice, and promptly followed Him.
“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him,
and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for
today I must abide at thy house” (

Luke 19:5).
Here was one of the sheep, called by name. The response was prompt, for
we are told, “And he made haste, and came down, and received him
joyfully” (verse 6).
“The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth
Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me” (

John 1:43).
This shows us the Shepherd seeking His sheep before He called him..97
John 11 supplies us with a still more striking example of the drawing
power of the Shepherd’s voice as He calleth His own sheep. There we read
of Lazarus, in the grave; but when Christ calls His sheep by name —
“Lazarus, come forth” — the sheep at once responded.
As a touching example of the sheep knowing His voice we refer the reader
to John 20. Mary Magdalene visited the Savior’s sepulcher in the early
morning hour. She finds the stone rolled away, and the body of the Lord
gone. Disconsolate, she stands there weeping. Suddenly she sees the Lord
Jesus standing by her, and “knew not that it was Jesus.” He speaks to her,
but she supposed Him to be the gardener. A moment later she identified
Him, and says, “Rabboni.” What had happened in the interval? What
enabled her to identify Him? Just one word from Him”Mary”! The moment
He called His sheep by name she “knew his voice”!
It has been thus with God’s elect all down the ages. It is so today. There is
a general “call” which goes forth to all who hear the Gospel, for “many are
called,” though few are chosen (

Matthew 20:16). But to each of
Christ’s “sheep” there comes a particular, a special call. This call is inward
and invincible, and therefore effectual. Proof of this is found in

Romans
8:30 and many other scriptures: there we read, “Whom he called, them he
also justified.” But all are not justified, therefore all are not “called.” Who
then are “the called”? The previous clause of

Romans 8:30 tells us —
“Whom he did predestinate, them he also called.” And who were the ones
“predestinated”? They were those whom God did “foreknow” (

John
8:29). And who were they? The previous verse makes answer — they who
were “the called according to his purpose.” Called not because of anything
in them, foreseen or actual, but solely by His own sovereign will or
purpose.
This effectual call from God is heard by each of the “sheep” because they
are given “ears to hear”: “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord
hath made even both of them” (

Proverbs 20:12). This effectual call
comes to none but the sheep; the “goats” hear it not — “But ye believe
not, because ye are not of my sheep” (

John 10:26).
There is, no doubt, a secondary application of these verses to the under-shepherds
of Christ today, and considered thus they supply us with several
important principles which enable us to identify them with certainty. First,
a true under-shepherd of Christ is one who gains access to the sheep in the
Divinely-appointed way: unlike the Pharisees, he does not intrude himself.98
into this sacred office, but is called to it by God. Second, he is, in the real
meaning of the word, a shepherd of the sheep: he has their welfare at heart,
and ever concerns himself with their interests. Third, to such an one “the
porter openeth”: the Holy Spirit sets before him an “open door” for
ministry and service. Fourth, the sheep hear his voice: the elect of God
recognize him as a Divinely appointed pastor. Fifth, he calleth his own
sheep by name: that portion of the flock over which God has made him
overseer, are known to him individually: with a true pastor’s heart he seeks
them out in the home and acquaints himself with them personally. Sixth, he
“leadeth them out” into the green pastures of God’s Word where they may
find food and rest. Seventh, “he goeth before them”: he sets before them a
godly example, asking them to do nothing which he is not doing himself; he
seeks to be
“an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in
spirit, in faith, in purity” (

1 Timothy 4:12).
May the Lord in His grace increase the number of such faithful
undershepherds. Let the reader, especially the preacher, consult the
following passages:

Acts 20:28;

2 Thessalonians 3:9;

1 Peter 5:2-
4.
“And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for
they know not the voice of strangers” (

John 10:5).
This is very important, for it describes a mark found on all of Christ’s
sheep. A strange shepherd they will not heed. This can hardly mean that
they will never respond to the call of the false shepherds, but that the
redeemed of Christ will not absolutely, unreservedly, completely give
themselves over to a false teacher. Instead, speaking characteristically, they
will flee from such. It is not possible to deceive the elect (

Matthew
24:24). Let a man of the world hear two preachers, one giving out the
truth and the other error, and he can discern no difference between them.
But it is far otherwise with a child of God. He may be but a babe in Christ,
unskilled in theological controversies, but instinctively he will detect vital
heresy as soon as he hears it. And why is this? Because he is indwelt by the
Holy Spirit, and has received an “unction” from the Holy One (

1 John
2:20). How thankful we should be for this. How gracious of the Lord to
have given us this capacity to separate the precious from the vile!.99
“This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what
things they were which he spake unto them” (

John 10:6).
This points a contrast, bringing out as it does the very reverse of what was
before us in the previous one. There we learn of the spirit of discernment
possessed by all of Christ’s sheep; here we see illustrated the solemn fact
that those who are not His sheep are quite unable to understand the truth
even when it is plainly presented to them. Blind indeed were these
Pharisees, and therefore totally incapacitated to perceive our Lord’s
meaning. Equally blind are all the unsaved today. Well educated they may
be, and theologically trained, but unless they are born again the Word of
God is a sealed book to them.
“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I
am the door of the sheep” (

John 10:7).
The “door of the sheep” is to be distinguished from the “door of the
sheepfold” in verse 1. The latter was the Divinely-appointed way by which
Christ had entered Judaism, in contrast from the false pastors of Israel
whose conduct evidenced plainly that they had thrust themselves into
office. The “door of the sheep” was Christ Himself, by which the elect of
Israel passed out of Judaism. The Lord had not come to restore Judaism,
but to lead out His own unto Himself. A striking illustration of this is to be
found in Exodus 33. At the time viewed there Judaism was in a state of
unbelief and rebellion against God. Accordingly, Moses, the shepherd of
Israel, “took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from
the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to
pass, that every one which sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of
the congregation, which was without the camp” (verse 7). Those who
really sought the Lord had to leave “the camp,” and go forth unto the
shepherd on the outside. It is beautiful to note the sequel: “And it came to
pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and
stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses”
(verse 9). God was with His shepherd on the outside of the camp! So here
in John 10, Christ, the antitype of Moses (

Deuteronomy 18:18),
tabernacles outside Judaism, and those whose hearts sought the Lord went
forth unto Him. And history has repeated itself. God is no longer with the
great organized systems of Christendom, and those of His people whose
hearts cleave to Him must go forth “outside the camp” if they would
commune with Him! The “door” here then speaks of exit, not entrance..100
“All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the
sheep did not hear them” (

John 10:8).
It is abundantly clear that here we have another instance in John’s Gospel
where the word “all” cannot be taken absolutely. The Lord had been
speaking of shepherds, the shepherds of Israel; but not all of them had been
“thieves and robbers.” Moses, Joshua, David, the prophets, Nehemiah, and
others who might be mentioned, certainly could not be included within this
classification. The “all” here, as is usually the case in Scripture, must be
restricted. But restricted to whom? Surely to the scribes and Pharisees,
who were here being addressed by the Lord. Bishop Ryle has a helpful note
on this verse: “Let it be noted,” he says, “that these strong epithets show
plainly that there are times when it is right to rebuke sharply. Flattering
everybody, and complimenting all teachers who are zealous and earnest,
without reference to their soundness in the faith, is not according to
Scripture. Nothing seems so offensive to Christ as a false teacher of
religion, a false prophet, or a false shepherd. Nothing ought to be so much
dreaded in the Church, and if needful, be so plainly rebuked, opposed, and
exposed. The strong language of our Reformers, when writing against
Romish teachers, is often blamed more than it ought to be.”
It is a notable fact that the severest denunciations which are to be found in
the Scriptures are reserved for false teachers. Listen to these awful words
of Christ:
“Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!… ye blind guides,
which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel!… ye serpents, ye
generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”
(

Matthew 23:14, 24, 33).
So, too, His forerunner:
“O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the
wrath to come?” (

Matthew 3:7).
So, too, the apostle Paul:
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming
themselves into the apostles of Christ” (

2 Corinthians 11:13)..101
So Peter: “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with the
tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever” (

2 Peter
2:17). So Jude:
“clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose
fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering
stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever”
(verses 12, 13).
Unspeakably solemn are these; would that their alarm might be sounded
forth today, as a warning to those who are so careless whose ministry they
sit under.
But why should our Lord term the Pharisees “thieves and robbers”?
Wherein lay the propriety of such appellations? We believe that light is
thrown on this question by such a scripture as

Luke 11:52:
“Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of
knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were
entering in ye hindered.”
With this should be compared the parallel passage in

Matthew 23:13.
The Pharisees were thieves inasmuch as they seized positions which they
had no right to occupy, exerted an authority which did not justly belong to
them, and unlawfully demanded a submission and subjection to which they
could establish no valid claim.
What, may be asked, is the distinction between “thieves” and “robbers”?
The word for “thief” is “kleptes” and is always so rendered. It has
reference to one who uses stealth. The word for “robbers” is “lestes,” and
is wrongly translated “thief” in

Matthew 21:13;

Luke 10:30, 36, etc.
It has reference to one who uses violence. The distinction between these
two words is closely preserved all through the New Testament with the
one exception of verse 10, where it seems as though the Lord uses the
word “kleptes” to combine the two different thoughts, for there the “thief”
is said not only to “steal,” but also to “kill and destroy.”
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved”
(

John 10:9)..102
Notice carefully the broader terms which Christ uses here. No longer does
He say, as in verse 7, “I am the door of the sheep,” but “I am the door,”
and this He follows at once with, “If any man enter in, he shall be saved.”
Why this change of language? Because up to this point the Lord had been
referring solely to elect Israelites, which He was leading out of Judaism.
But now His heart reaches forth to the elect among the Gentiles, for not
only was He “a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to
confirm the promises made unto the fathers,” but He also came “that the
Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy” (

Romans 15:8, 9). The
“door” in verse 1 was God’s appointed way for the shepherd into Judaism.
The “door” in verse 7 was the Way out of Judaism, by Christ leading
God’s elect in separation unto Himself. Here in verse 9 the “door” has to
do with salvation, for elect Jew and Gentile alike.
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” This is the
“door” into the presence of God. By nature we are separated, yea,
“alienated” from God. Sin as a barrier comes in between and bars us out of
His holy presence. This is one of the first things a convicted soul is made
conscious of. I am defiled and condemned, how can I draw near to God? I
am made to realize my guilty distance from Him who is Light, how then
can I be reconciled to Him? Then, from God’s Word, I learn heaven’s
answer to these solemn questions. The Lord Jesus has bridged that awful
gulf which separated me from God. He bridged it by taking my place and
being made a curse in my stead. And as the exercised soul bows to God’s
sentence of condemnation, and receives by faith the marvelous provision
which His grace has made, I, with all other believers, learn,
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off are made
nigh by the blood of Christ” (

Ephesians 2:13).
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” This is one of
the precious words of Christ which is well worthy of prolonged meditation.
A “door” speaks of easy ingress and is contrasted from the high walls in
which it is set. There are no difficult walls which have to be scaled before
the anxious sinner can obtain access to God. No, Christ is the “door” into
His presence. A “door” may also be contrasted from a long, dreary,
circuitous passage — just one step, and those on the outside are now
within. The soul that believes God’s testimony to the truth of salvation by
Christ alone, at once enters God’s presence. But mark the definite article:
“I am the door.” There was only one door into the ark in which Noah and.103
his family found shelter from the flood. There was only one door into the
Tabernacle, which was Jehovah’s dwelling-place. So there is only one
“door” into the presence of the Father —
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other
name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved”
(

Acts 4:12).
And again,
“I am the way,” said Christ. “No man cometh unto the Father but
by me” (

John 14:6).
Have you entered by this “door,” dear reader? Remember that a door is not
to be looked at and admired, but to be used! Nor do you need to knock:
the Door is open, and open for “any man” who will enter. Soon, though,
the Door will be shut (see

Luke 13:25), for the present Day of salvation
(

2 Corinthians 6:2) will be followed by the great Day of wrath
(

Revelation 6:17). Enter then while there is time.
Such are some of the simplest thoughts suggested by the figure of “the
door.” What follows is an extract from an unknown writer who signed
himself “J.B. Jr’: — “The door suggests the thought of the dwelling-place
to which it is the means of entrance. Within we find the possession or
portion of those who can by right enter by the door. Thus it is as a place
set apart for its possessors from all that which is outside. In this way we
may say it is a sanctuary. These things are rightly connected with a door, it
being the only right way of entrance.”
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” Notice Christ
did not say, “I am the door: if any man enter in, he shall be saved,” but, “by
me if any man enter in.” Man cannot enter of himself, for being by nature
“dead in trespasses and sins” he is perfectly helpless. It is only by Divine
aid, by the impartation to us of supernatural power, that any can enter in
and be saved. Without Christ we can do nothing (

John 15:5). Writing to
the Philippians the apostle said,
“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe
on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (

John 1:29).
Not only is it a fact that no one can come to Christ except the Father draw
him (

John 6:44), but it is also true that none can come to the Father.104
except Christ empowers. This is very clear from the sixteenth verse of our
chapter: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I
must bring.” The “sheep” enter through the Door into God’s presence
because Christ “brings” them. Beautifully is this portrayed in

Luke 15:5,
6:
“And when he hath found it (the lost sheep), he layeth it on his
shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth
together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with
me.”
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in
and out, and find pasture.” To go “in and out” is a figurative way to
express perfect freedom. This was something vastly different from the
experiences of even saved Israelites under the law of Moses. One of the
chief designs of the ceremonial law was to hedge Israelites around with
ordinances which kept them separate from all other nations. But this was
made an end of by Christ, for through His death the “middle wall of
partition” was broken down. Thus were His sheep perfectly free to “go in
and out.” It is indeed striking to discover in Nehemiah 3 that of the ten
gates referred to there, of the sheep gate only are no “locks and bars”
mentioned. This chapter concerns the remnant after their captivity, and
clearly fore-shadows in a wonderful way the truth here taught by Christ.
“The fulness of this freedom is intercourse with other saints, and in
deliverance from the yoke of the (ceremonial) laws (

Acts
15:10), was only by degrees apprehended. That lesson, taught Peter
on the housetop at Joppa (Acts 10), was the first real step in the
realization of that freedom” (Mr. C. E. Stuart).
“And find pasture.” This tells of the gracious provision made for the
nourishment of the sheep. Our minds at once turn to that matchless Psalm
which records the joyous testimony of the saints: “The Lord is my
Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green, pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.” The “pastures,” then, speak not only
of food, but of rest as well. This too is a part of that wondrous portion
which is ours in Christ. A beautiful type of this is found in

Numbers
10:33:.105
“And they departed from the mount of the Lord three days’
journey: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them
in the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them.”
All through the Old Testament the “ark of the covenant” is a lovely figure
of the Savior Himself, and here it is seen seeking out a resting place — the
pastures — for Israel of old.
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in
and out, and find pasture.” Seven things are enumerated in this precious
verse. First, “I am the door”: Christ the only Way to God. Second “By me
if any man enter”: Christ the Imparter of power to enter. Third, “If any
man enter”: Christ the Savior for Jew and Gentile alike. Fourth, “If any
man enter in”: Christ appropriated by a single act of faith. Fifth, “he shall
be saved”: Christ the Deliverer from the penalty, power, and presence of
sin. Sixth, “he shall go in and out”: Christ the Emancipator from all
bondage. Seventh, “and find pasture’’: Christ the Sustainer of His people.
Finally, it is blessed to see how the contents of this precious verse present
Christ to us as the Fulfiller of the prophetic prayer of Moses:
“And Moses spake unto the Lord, saying, Let the Lord, the God of
the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, Which may
go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which
may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the
congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd”
(

Numbers 27:15-17).
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy”
(

John 10:10).
It will be observed that Christ here uses the singular number. In verse 8 He
had spoken of “thieves and robbers” when referring to all who had come
before Him; but here in verse 10 He has some particular individual in view
— “the thief.” It should also be noted that in speaking of this particular
“thief” our Lord combines in one the two distinct characters of thieves and
robbers. As intimated in our comments on verse 8 the distinctive thought
associated with the former is that of stealth; that of the latter, is violence.
Here “the thief” cometh to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. Who then is
the Lord referring to? Surely it is to the last false shepherd of Israel, the
“idol shepherd,” the antichrist, of whom it is written,.106
“For lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit
those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that
that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the
flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces. Woe to the idol
shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm,
and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right
eye shall be utterly darkened” (

Zechariah 11:16).
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it
more abundantly” (

John 10:10).
Why say this after having already declared that “By me if any man enter in,
he shall be saved”? Mark this follows His reference to “the thief.” Here
then our Lord seems to be looking forward to the Day of His second
advent, as it relates to Israel. This indeed will be the time when abundant
life will be theirs. As we read in

Romans 11:15,
“If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what
shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?”
In striking accord with this it should be noted that the Lord’s title “I am the
door” (verse 9) is the third of His “I am” titles in this Gospel — the
number which speaks of resurrection. Immediately following we find Christ
saying here I am the good Shepherd” (verse 11). This is the fourth of His
“I am” titles — the number of the earth.
As preparation for the next chapter let the interested student ponder
carefully the following points:
1. Study the typical “shepherds” of the Old Testament.
2. Precisely what is the meaning of “for” in verse 11?
3. Did the Shepherd give His life for any besides “the sheep”?
4. What other adjectives besides “good” are applied to Christ as the
“Shepherd”?
5. Who is referred to by “a hireling” (verse 12)?
6. Who are the “other sheep” of verse 16?
7. Look up proofs in the Gospels of the first part of verse 18..107
CHAPTER 35
CHRIST, THE GOOD SHEPHERD

JOHN 10:11-21
The following is submitted as an Analysis of the passage which is to be
before us: —
1. The good Shepherd dies for His sheep: verse 11.
2. The character and conduct of hirelings: verses 12, 13.
3. The intimacy between the Shepherd and the sheep: verse 14.
4. The intimacy between the Father and the Son.’ verse 15.
5. Gentile sheep saved by the Shepherd: verse 16.
6. The relation of the Shepherd to the Father: verses 17, 18.
7. The division among the Jews: verses 19-21.
The passage before us completes our Lord’s discourse with the Pharisees,
following their excommunication of the beggar to whom He had given
sight. In this discourse, Christ does two things: first, He graphically depicts
their unfaithfulness; second, He contrasts His own fidelity and goodness.
They, as the religious leaders of the people, are depicted as “strangers”
(verse 5), as “thieves and robbers” (verse 8), as “hirelings”. (verses 12, 13).
He stands revealed as “the door” (verses 9, 11), and as “the good
Shepherd” (verse 11).
The Pharisees were the shepherds of Israel. In casting out of the synagogue
this poor sheep, the man that was born blind, for doing what was right, and
for refusing to do what was wrong, they had shown what manner of spirit
they were of. And this was but a sample of their accustomed oppression
and violence. In them, then, did the prophecy of Ezekiel receive a
fulfillment, that prophecy in which He had testified of those shepherds of
His people who resembled thieves and robbers. Ezekiel 34 (which like all
prophecy has a double fulfillment) supplies a sad commentary upon the.108
selfish and cruel conduct of the scribes and Pharisees. The whole chapter
should be read: we quote but a fragment —
“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man,
prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto
them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the
shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the
shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with
the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The
diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that
which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken,
neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither
have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty
have ye ruled them” (verses 1-4).
The same prophecy of Ezekiel goes on to present the true Shepherd of
Israel, the Good Shepherd:
“For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search
my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock
in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I
seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where
they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day… I will feed
my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I
will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven
away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen
that which was sick… And I will set up one shepherd over them,
and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them,
and he shall be their shepherd… Thus shall they know that I the
Lord their God am with them, and that they, even the house of
Israel, are my people, saith the Lord God. And ye my flock, the
flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord
God” (verses 11, 12, 15, 16, 23, 30, 31).
Ezekiel is not the only prophet of the Old Testament who presents the
Savior under the figure of a “shepherd.” Frequently do the Old Testament
Scriptures so picture Him. In His dying prediction, Jacob declared,
“From thence (the mighty God of Jacob) is the Shepherd, the Stone
of Israel” (

Genesis 49:24)..109
The Psalmist declared, “The Lord is my Shepherd” (

Psalm 23:1).
Through Isaiah it was revealed,
“The Lord God will come with strong hand. and his arm shall rule
for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs
with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead
those that are with young” (

Psalm 40:10, 11).
In Zechariah occurs that remarkable word
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is
my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the
sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little
ones” (Psalm 13:7).
In addition to the prophecies, the Old Testament is particularly rich in the
types which foreshadow Christ in the character of a “shepherd.” So far as
we have been able to trace, there are five individual shepherds who pointed
to Christ, and each of them supplies some distinctive line in the typical
picture. First, Abel, for in

Genesis 4:2 we are told that “Abel was a
keeper of sheep.” The distinctive aspect of typical truth which he
exemplifies is the death of the Shepherd — slain by wicked hands, by his
brother according to the flesh. The second is Jacob, and a prominent thing
in connection with him as a shepherd is his care for the sheep — see

Genesis 30:31;

Genesis 31:38-40; and note particularly

Genesis
33:13, 14. The third is Joseph: the very first thing recorded in Scripture
about this favorite son of Jacob is that he fed the flock (

Genesis 37:2).
The fourth is Moses. Three things are told us about him: he watered,
protected and guided the sheep:
“Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and
drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. And
the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and
helpeth them, and watered their flock… Now Moses kept the flock
of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock
to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God,
even to Horeb” (

Exodus 2:16, 17; 3:1).
The fifth is David, and he is presented as jeopardizing his life for the sheep
—.110
“And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and
there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And
I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his
mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard,
and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and
the bear” (

1 Samuel 17:34-36).
There is one other individual “shepherd” referred to in the Old Testament
and that is “the idol shepherd” (

Zechariah 11:16, 17), and he is the
Antichrist — how significant that he is the sixth! The only other individual
“shepherd” mentioned in Scripture is the Lord Jesus, and He is the seventh!
Seven is the number of perfection, and we do not reach perfection till we
come to Christ, the Good Shepherd!
“I am the good shepherd.” The word for “good” is a very comprehensive
one, and perhaps it is impossible to embrace in a brief definition all that it
included within its scope. The Greek word is “kalos” and is translated
“good” seventy-six times: it is also rendered “fair,” “meet,” “worthy,” etc.
In order to discover the prime elements of the word we must have recourse
to the law of first mention. Whenever we are studying any word or
expression in Scripture, it is very important to pay special attention to the
initial mention of it. The first time this word “good” occurs in the New
Testament is in

Matthew 3:10, where we read, “Every tree which
bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” The
word “tree” is there used metaphorically. It is the unregenerate who are in
view. No unbeliever is able to bring forth “good fruit.” The “good fruit,”
then, is what is produced in and through a Christian. What kind of “fruit” is
it which a Christian bears? It is Divine fruit, spiritual fruit: it is the product
of the new nature. It is Divine as contrasted from what is human; spiritual
as contrasted from what is fleshly. Thus in the light of this first occurrence
of the word “good” we learn that when Christ said, “I am the good
shepherd” He signified, “I am the Divine and spiritual Shepherd.” All other
shepherds were human; He was the Son of God. The “shepherds” from
whom He is here contrasting Himself were the Pharisees, and they were
carnal; but He was spiritual.
It will also repay us to note carefully the first occurrence of this word
“good” in John’s Gospel. It is found in

John 2:10. When the Lord Jesus
had miraculously turned the water into wine, the servants bore it to the
governor of the feast, and when he had tasted it, he exclaimed, “Every man.111
at the beginning cloth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk,
then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.”
Here the meaning of the word “good” signifies choice, or excellent, yea,
that which is pre-eminently excellent, for the “good wine” is here
contrasted from the inferior. This usage of “kalos” helps us still further in
ascertaining the force of this adjective in

John 10:11. When Christ said,
“I am the good shepherd,” He intimated that He was the pre-eminently
excellent Shepherd, infinitely elevated above all who had gone before Him.
“I am the good shepherd.” This was clearly an affirmation of His absolute
Deity. He was here addressing Israelites, and Israel’s “Shepherd” was none
other than Jehovah (

Psalm 23:1; 80:1). When then the Savior said, “I
am the good shepherd.” He thus definitely identified Himself with the
Jehovah of the Old Testament.
“I am the good shepherd.” This, like every other of our Lord’s titles, views
Him in a distinctive relationship. He was, says Dr. John Gill, “a Shepherd
of His Father’s appointing, calling, and sending, to whom the care of all
His sheep, or chosen ones, was committed; who was set up as a Shepherd
over them by Him, and was entrusted with them; and who being called,
undertook to feed them.” In the Greek it is more emphatic than in the
English: literally it reads, “I am the shepherd, the good.”
“The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (verse 11). The word for
“giveth’ is usually translated “layeth down.” “For the sheep” signifies, on
their behalf. The good Shepherd gave His life freely and voluntarily, in the
room and stead of His people, as a ransom for them, that they might be
delivered from death and have eternal life. The Ethiopic Version reads,
“The good Shepherd gives His life for the redemption of the sheep.”
“The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” This is one of the many
scriptures which clearly and definitely defines both the nature and extent of
the Atonement. The Savior “gave his life” not as a martyr for the truth, not
as a moral example of self-sacrifice, but for a people. He died that they
might live. By nature His people are dead in trespasses and sins, and had
not the Divinely-appointed and Divinely-provided Substitute died for them,
there had been no spiritual and eternal life for them. Equally explicit is this
verse concerning those for whom Christ laid down His life. It was not laid
down for fallen angels, but for sinful men; and not for men in general, but
for His own people in particular; for “the sheep,” and not for “the goats.”
Such was the announcement of God through the prophets,.112
“For the transgression of my people was he stricken”
(

Isaiah 53:8).
As said the angel to Mary,
“Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from
their sins” (

Matthew 1:21);
and as said the angel to the shepherds,
“Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all
the people” (

Luke 2:10).
The same restriction to be observed in the words of Christ at the Supper:
“This is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many for
the remission of sins” (

Matthew 26:28).
(Cf. also

Acts 20:28;

Titus 2:14;

Hebrews 2:17, etc.)
“But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the
sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and
fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep”
(

John 10:12).
It seems evident that our Lord is here pointing once more to the Pharisees,
the unfaithful shepherds of Israel. The hireling shepherd is not the owner of
the sheep — note “whose own the sheep are not”; he has neither a
proprietorship over them nor affection for them. The “hireling” is paid to
guard and watch them, and all such mind their own things, and not the
things of the Lord. And yet in view of

Luke 10:7 — “The laborer is
worthy of his hire” — and other Scriptures, we must be careful not to
interpret the use of this figure here out of harmony with its context. “It is
not the bare receiving of hire which demonstrates a man to be a hireling
(the Lord hath ordained that they who preach the Gospel should live of the
Gospel); but the loving of hire; the loving the hire more than the work; the
working for the sake of the hire. He is a hireling who would not work,
were it not for the hire” (John Wesley). The “hireling” in a word is a
professing servant of God who fills a position simply for the temporal
advantages which it affords. A hireling is a mercenary: has no other
impulse than the lust of lucre..113
“But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are
not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf
catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.” We do not think that the “wolf”
here has reference, directly, to Satan, for the false shepherds do not flee at
his approach; rather does it seem to us that “the wolf” points to any enemy
of the “sheep,” who approaches to attack them. Note in passing the care of
Christ here in the selection of His words: “the wolf catcheth them and
scattereth the sheep,” not devoureth, for no “sheep” of Christ can ever
perish.
“The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the
sheep” (

John 10:13).
At first glance this saying of Christ’s seems very trite, yet a little reflection
will show that it enunciates a profound principle — a man does what he
does because he is what he is. There is ever a rigid consistency between
character and conduct. The drunkard drinks because he is a drunkard. But
he is a drunkard before he drinks to excess. The liar lies because he is a
liar; but he is a liar before he tells a lie. The thief steals because he is a
thief. When the testing time comes each man reveals what he is by what he
does. Conduct conforms to character as the stream does to the fountain.
“The hireling fleeth because he is an hireling”: this is a philosophical
explanation of the fugitive’s deed. It was the flight which demonstrated the
man.
The same principle holds good on the other side. The Christian acts
christianly because he is a Christian; but a man must be a Christian before
he can live a Christian life. Christian profession is no adequate test, nor is
an orthodox creed. The demons have a creed, and it causes them to
tremble, but it will not deliver them from Hell; It is by our fruit that we are
known: it is deeds which make manifest the heart.
“The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling.” Character is revealed by our
conduct in the crises of life. When is it that the hireling fleeth? It is when he
seeth “the wolf coming.” Ah! it is the wolf that discovers the hireling! You
might never have known what he was had not the wolf come. Very
suggestive is this figure. It has passed into our common speech, as when
poverty and starvation is represented by “the wolf is at the door.” It
suggests a crisis of trial or fierce testing. St. Paul made use of this simile
when addressing the Ephesian elders:.114
“For I know this, that after my departing shall greivous wolves
enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (

Acts 20:29).
This is all very searching. How do you act when you see “the wolf’
coming! Are you terror stricken? Or, does approaching danger, temptation,
or trial, cast you back the more upon the Lord?
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of
mine” (

John 10:14).
There seem to be three lines of thought suggested by this figure of the
“shepherd” as applied to the Lord Jesus. First, it refers to His mediatorial
office. The shepherd is not the owner of the flock, but the one to whom the
care of the sheep is entrusted. So Christ as Mediator is the One appointed
by the Father to act as shepherd, the One to whom He has committed the
salvation of His elect — note how in the types, Joseph, Moses, and David
tended not their own flock, but those of their fathers. Second, the figure
speaks of fellowship, the Savior’s presence with His own. The shepherd
never leaves his flock. There is only one exception to this, and that is when
he commits them into the care of the “porter” of the sheepfold; and that is
at night-fall. How suggestive is this! During the night of Christ’s absence,
the Holy Spirit has charge of God’s elect! Finally; the shepherd-character
speaks of Christ’s care, faithfulness, solicitude for His own.
In two other passages in the New Testament is Christ presented as “the
shepherd,” and in each with a different descriptive adjective. In

Hebrews 13:20 we read, “Now the God of peace, that brought again
from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through
the blood of the everlasting covenant.’’ Again in 1 Peter verse 4, we are
told, “When the chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of
glory which fadeth not away.” There is a striking order to be observed in
the three “shepherd” titles of our Lord. Here in John 10, the reference is
plainly to the Cross, so that He is the “good” Shepherd in death, laying
down His life for the sheep. In Hebrews 13 the reference is to the empty
sepulcher, so that He is the “great” Shepherd in resurrection. While in

1
Peter 5:4 the reference is to His glorious return, so that He will be
manifested as the “chief’ Shepherd.
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep.” Why does the Lord refer
to His people under the figure of “sheep”? The figure is very suggestive
and full. We shall not attempt to be exhaustive but merely suggestive..115
Under the Mosaic economy a sheep was one of the few clean animals: as
such it suitably represents God’s people, each of which has been cleansed
from all sin. A sheep is a harmless animal: even children will approach
them without fear. So God’s people are exhorted to be wise as serpents
and harmless as doves” (

Matthew 10:16). Sheep are helpless: nature
has endowed them neither with weapons of attack nor defense. Equally
helpless is the believer in himself: “without me, says Christ, ye can do
nothing. Sheep are gentle: what so tame and tractable as a lamb! This is
ever a grace which ought to distinguish the followers of Christ: “gentle,
easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits” (

James 3:17). The
sheep are entirely dependent upon the shepherd This is noticeably the case
in the Orient. Not only must the sheep look to the shepherd for protection
against wild animals, but he must lead them to the pastures. May we be
cast back more and more upon God. Sheep are preeminently characterized
by a proneness to wander. Even when placed in a field with a fence all
around it, yet if there be a gap anywhere, they will quickly get out and
stray. Alas, that this is so true of us. Urgently do we all need to heed that
admonition, “Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation.” A sheep is a
useful animal. Each year it supplies a crop of wool. In this too it prefigures
the Christian. The daily attitude of the believer should be, “Lord, what
wouldst thou have me to do?”
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep.” Very blessed is this. The
Lord Jesus knows each one of those whom the Father has given to Him
with a special knowledge of approbation, affection, and intimacy. Though
unknown to the world “the world knoweth us not” (1 John 3:l) — we are
known to Him. And Christ only knoweth all His sheep. Ofttimes we are
deceived. Some whom we regard as “sheep” are really “goats”; and others
whom we look upon as outside the flock of Christ, belong thereto
notwithstanding. Whoever would have concluded that Lot was a
“righteous man” had not the New Testament told us so! And who would
have imagined that Judas was a devil when Christ sent him forth as one of
the twelve! “And know my sheep”: fearfully solemn is the contrast
presented by

Matthew 7:23 — “I never knew you”!
“And am known of mine” (

John 10:14).
Christ is known experientially; known personally. Each born-again person
can say with Job,.116
“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye
seeth thee” (

Job 42:6).
The believer knows Christ not merely as the outstanding Figure in history,
but as the Savior of his soul. He has a heart knowledge of Him. He knows
Him as the Rest-giver, as the Friend who sticketh closer than a brother, as
the good Shepherd who ever ministereth to His own.
“As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father”
(

John 10:15).
The word “knoweth” here, as frequently in Scripture, signifies a knowledge
of approbation: it is almost the equivalent of loveth. The first part of this
verse should be linked on to the last clause of the previous one, where
Christ says, I “know my sheep, and am known of mine.” The two clauses
thus make a complete sentence, and a remarkable one it is. The mutual
knowledge of Christ and His sheep, is like unto that which exists between
the Father and the Son: it is a knowledge, an affection, so profound, so
spiritual, so heavenly, so intimate, so blessed, that no other analogy was
possible to do it justice: as the Father knoweth the Son, and as the Son
knoweth the Father, so Christ knows His sheep, and so the sheep know
Him.
“And I lay down my life for the sheep” (

John 10:15).
The precise significance of the preposition is unequivocally defined for us
in

Romans 5:6-8, where the same Greek term (“huper”) occurs: “For
when we were yet without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good
man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward
us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The word “for”
here means not merely on the behalf of, but in the stead of: “the Greek
expression for “dying for any one,” never has any signification other than
that of rescuing the life of another at the expense of one’s own”
(Parkhurst’s Lexicon).
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold”
(

John 10:16).
It is clear that the Lord is here contemplating His elect among the Gentiles.
Not only for the elect Jews would He “lay down his life,” but for “the
children of God that were scattered abroad” (

John 11:52) as well. But.117
note Christ does not here say, “other sheep I shall have,” but “other sheep I
have.” They were His even then; His, because given to Him by the Father
from all eternity. A parallel passage is found in Acts 18. The apostle Paul
had just arrived in Corinth, and the Lord spoke to him in a vision by night,
and said unto him, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; for I
am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee, for I have much
people in this city” (verses 9, 10). How positive, definite, and unequivocal
these statements are! How they show that everything is to be traced back
to the eternal counsels of the Godhead!
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I
must bring, and they, shall hear my voice” (

John 10:16).
Equally positive is this. This is no uncertainty, no contingency. There is no
they are willing to listen.” How miserably man perverts the truth of God,
yea, how wickedly he denies it! It is not difficult to understand what is the
cause of it; it is lack of faith to believe what the Scriptures so plainly teach.
These “other sheep” Christ must bring because necessity was laid upon
Him. He had covenanted with the Father to redeem them. And they would
be brought, they would hear His voice, for there can be no failure with
Him. The work which the Father gave His Son to do shall be perfectly
performed and successfully accomplished. Neither man’s stubbornness nor
the Devil’s malice can hinder Him. Not a single one of that favored
company given to Christ by the Father shall perish. Each of these shall hear
His voice, because they were predestinated so to do, and it is written,
“As many as were ordained to eternal life believed”
(

Acts 13:48).
“They shall hear my voice” was both a promise and a prophecy.
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I
must bring, and they shall hear my voice.” Upon this verse the
Puritan Trapp has some most suggestive thoughts in his excellent
commentary — a commentary which, so far as we are aware, has
been out of print for over two hundred years. “Other sheep — the
elect Gentiles, whose conversion to Christ was, among other types,
not obscurely foretold in

Leviticus 19:23-25 — ‘And when ye
shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees
for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised;
three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be.118
eaten of. But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to
praise the Lord withal. And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit
thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the
Lord your God’. The first three years in Canaan, the Israelites
were to cast away the fruits of the trees as uncircumcised. So our
Savior planted the Gospel in that land for the first ‘three years’ of
His public ministry: but the uncircumcision was cast away; that is,
to the uncircumcised Gentiles, the Gospel was not preached. The
fruit of the fourth year was consecrated to God: that is, Christ in
the fourth year from His baptism, laid down His life for His sheep,
rose again, ascended, and sent His Holy Spirit; whereby His
apostles, and others were consecrated as the firstfruits of the
Promised Land. But in the fifth year, the fruit of the Gospel planted
by Christ began to be common, for the Gospel was no longer shut
up within the narrow bounds of Judaism, but began to be preached
to all nations for the obedience of faith!”
f11
“And there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (

John 10:16).
Everywhere else in the New Testament the Greek word for “fold” is
translated “flock,” as it should be here, and as it is in the R. V. In the first
part of this verse the Greek uses an entirely different word which is
correctly rendered “fold” — “Other sheep I have which are not of this
fold.” “This fold” referred to Judaism, and the elect Gentiles were outside
of it, as we read in

Ephesians 2:11, 12,
“Ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called
uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh
made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being
aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the
covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the
world.”
But now the Lord tells us, “there shall be one flock, and one Shepherd.’
This has been already accomplished, though not yet is it fully manifested —
“For he is our peace, who hath made both (believing Jews and
believing Gentiles) one, and hath broken down the middle wall of
partition” (

Ephesians 2:14).
The “one flock” comprehends, we believe, the whole family of God, made
up of believers before the nation of Israel came into existence, of believing.119
Israelites, of believing Gentiles, and of those who shall be saved. The “one
flock” will have been gathered from various “folds.”
“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life,
that I might take it again” (

John 10:17).
Christ is here speaking as the Mediator, as the Word who had become
flesh. As one of the Godhead, the Father had loved Him from all eternity.
Beautifully is this brought out in

Proverbs 8:30:
“Then I was by him, as one brought up with him, and I was daily
his delight, rejoicing always before him”
— the previous verses make it plain that it is the Son who is in view,
personified as “Wisdom.” But the Father also loved Christ in His incarnate
form. At His baptism, the commencement of His mediatorial work, He
declared, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” Here the
Son declares, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my
life that I might take it again”, for the laying down of His life was the
supreme example of His devotion to the Father as the next verse clearly
shows — it was in obedience to the Father that He gave up His spirit.
“No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself”
(

John 10:18).
When Christ died, He did so of His own voluntary will. This is a point of
vital importance. We must never give a place to the dishonoring thought
that the Lord Jesus was powerless to prevent His sufferings, that when He
endured such indignities and cruel treatment at the hands of His enemies, it
was because He was unable to avoid them. Nothing could be farther from
the truth. The treachery of Judas, the arrest in the Garden, the arraignment
before Caiaphas, the insults from the soldiers, the trial before Pilate, the
submission to the unjust sentence, the journey to Calvary, the being nailed
to the cruel tree — all of these were voluntarily endured. Without His own
consent none could have harmed a hair of His head. A beautiful type of this
is furnished in

Genesis 22:13, where we read that the ram, which was
placed on the altar as a substitute for Isaac, was “caught in a thicket by his
horns.” The “horns” speak of strength and power (see

Habakkuk 3:4,
etc.). Typically they tell us that the Savior did not succumb to death
through weakness, but that He gave up His life in the full vigor of His
strength. It was not the nails, but the strength of His love to the Father and
to His elect, which held Him to the Cross..120
The pre-eminence of Christ was fully manifested at the Cross. In birth He
was unique, in His life unique, and so in His death. Not yet have we read
aright the inspired accounts of His death, if we suppose that on the Cross
the Savior was a helpless victim of His enemies. At every point He
demonstrated that no man took His life from Him, but rather that He laid it
down of Himself. See the very ones sent to arrest Him in the Garden, there
prostrate on the ground before Him (

John 18:6): how easily could He
have walked away unmolested had it so pleased Him! Hear Him before
Pilate, as He reminds that Roman officer,
“Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were
given thee from above” (

John 19:11).
Behold Him on the Cross itself, so superior to His sufferings that He makes
intercession for the transgressors, saves the dying robber, and provides a
home for His widowed mother. Listen to Him as He cries with a loud voice
(

Matthew 27:46, 50) — no exhausted Sufferer was this! Mark how
triumphantly He “gave up the ghost” (

John 19:30). Verily “no man”
took His life from Him. So evident was it that He triumphed in the hour of
death itself, the Roman soldier was made to exclaim, “Truly this was the
Son of God” (

Matthew 27:54).
“I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again”
(

John 10:18).
Here our Lord ascribes His resurrection to His own power. He had done
the same before, when, after cleansing the temple, the Pharisees had
demanded from Him a sign:
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”
(

John 2:19)
was His response. In

Romans 6:4 we are told that Christ was “raised
from the dead by the glory of the Father.” In

Romans 8:11 we read,
“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he
that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies
by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” These passages are not contradictory,
but complementary; they supplement one another; each contributing a
separate ray of light on the glorious event of which they speak. Putting
them together we learn that the resurrection of the Savior was an act in
which each of the three Persons of the Trinity concurred and co-operated..121
“This commandment have I received of my Father.” This is parallel with
what we read of in

Philippians 2:8,
“And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and
became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
It was to this our Lord referred in

John 6:38,
“For I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the
will of him that sent me.”
“There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these
sayings” (

John 10:19).
This had been foretold of old:
“He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a
rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a
snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (

Isaiah 8:14).
Similarly, Simeon announced in the temple, when the Savior was presented
to God,
“Behold, this child is set (appointed) for the fall and rising again of
many in Israel” (

Luke 2:34).
So had the Savior Himself declared.
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to
send peace, but a sword” (

Matthew 10:34).
From the Divine side this is a profound mystery to us. It had been an easy
matter for God to have subdued the enmity in men’s hearts and brought
them all as worshippers to the feet of Christ. But instead of this, He
permitted His Son to be despised and rejected by the great majority, and
He permitted this because He Himself eternally decreed it (see

Acts
2:23;

1 Peter 2:8, etc).
“And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye
him?” (

John 10:20).
Terrible indeed was the condition of these men. The Son of God called a
demoniac, Truth incarnate deemed insane! “Tigers rage,” says a Puritan,
“at the fragrancy of sweet spices: so did these monsters at the Savior’s
sweet sayings.’’ How humbling to remember that the same corrupt heart.122
indwells each of us! O what grace we daily need to keep down the iniquity
which is to be found in every Christian. Not until we reach the glory shall
we fully learn how deeply indebted we are to God’s wondrous grace.
“Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can
a devil open the eyes of the blind?” (

John 10:21).
Notice it was the “many” who deemed Christ a madman. But there were
some — “others” — even among the Pharisees who had, even then, a
measure of light, and recognized that the Savior neither spake nor acted
like a demoniac. This minority group was made up, no doubt, by such men
as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. It is significant that they were
impressed more with His “words” than they were with His miraculous
works.
As a preparation for our exposition of the remainder of John 10, let the
interested reader study the following points: —
1. What is the force of “it was winter” (verse 22) in the light of what
follows?
2. Mark the contrasts between

John 10:23 and

Acts 3:11 and
5:12.
3. What verses in

John 8 are parallel with

John 10:26?
4. Enumerate the seven proofs of the believer’s security found in verses
27-29.
5. Trace out the seven things said about “the sheep” in John 10.
6. Trace out the seven things said about the “shepherd.”
7. What is the meaning of “sanctified” in verse 36?.123
CHAPTER 36
CHRIST, ONE WITH THE FATHER

JOHN 10:22-42
It is by no means a simple task either to analyze or to summarize the
second half of John 10. The twenty-second verse clearly begins a new
section of the chapter, but it is equally clear that what follows is closely
related to that which has gone before. The Lord is no longer talking to “the
Pharisees,” but to “the Jews.” Nevertheless, it is in His shepherd character,
as related to His own, that He is here viewed. Yet while there is this in
common between the first and second halves of John 10, there is a notable
difference between them. In the former, Christ is seen in His mediatorship;
in the latter, it is His essential glories which are the more prominent.
In the first part of John 10 it is Christ in “the form of a servant” which is
before us. He gains entrance to the sheepfold by “the porter opening to
him” (verse 3). He is the “door” into God’s presence (verse 9), the Way
unto the Father. There, He is seen as the One who was to “give his life for
the sheep” (verse 11). There, we behold Him in the place of obedience, in
subjection to the “commandment” of the father (verse 18). But mark the
contrast in the second half of John 10. Here, He presents Himself as the
One endowed with the sovereign right to “give eternal life” to His own
(verse 28); as One possessed of almighty power, so that none can pluck
them out of His hand (verse 28); as one with the Father (verse 30); as “the
Son of God” (verse 36). It seems evident then that the central design of the
passage before us is to display the essential glories of the person of the
God-man. It is not so much the Godhood of Christ which is here in view,
as it is the Deity of the One who humbled Himself to become man.
What is recorded in the latter half of John 10 provided a most pertinent,
though tragic, conclusion to the first section of the Gospel. It was winter-time
(verse 22); the season of ingathering was now over; the “sun of
righteousness” had completed His official circuit, and the genial warmth of
summer had now given place to the season of chilling frosts. The Jews
were celebrating “the feast of the dedication,” which commemorated the.124
purification of the temple. But for the true Temple, the One to whom the
temple had pointed — God tabernacling in their midst — they had no
heart. The Lord Jesus is presented as walking in the temple, but it is to be
carefully noted that He was “in Solomon’s porch” (verse 23). which means
that He was on the outside of the sacred enclosure, Israel’s “house” was
left unto them desolate (cf.

Matthew 23:38)!While here in the porch,
“the Jews” (the religious leaders) came to Christ with the demand that He
tell them openly if He were “the Christ” (verse 24), saying, “How long dost
thou make us to doubt?” This was the language of unbelief, and uttered at
that late date, showed the hopelessness of their condition. Following this
interview of the Jews with Christ, and their unsuccessful attempt to
apprehend Him, the Lord retires beyond Jordan, “unto the place where
John at first baptized” (verse 40). Thus did Israel’s Messiah return to the
place where He had formally dedicated Himself to His mission. Further
details will come before us in the course of the exposition. Below is an
attempt to analyze our passage:
1. During the feast of dedication Jesus walks in Solomon’s porch:
verses 22, 23.
2. The Jews demand an open proclamation of His Messiah-ship: verse
24.
3. The Lord explains why a granting of their request was useless:
verses 25, 26.
4. The eternal security of His sheep: verses 27-30.
5. The Jews attempt to stone Him because of His avowal of Deity:
verses 31-33.
6. Christ’s defense of His Deity: verses 34-38.
7. Christ leaves Jerusalem and goes beyond Jordan, where many believe
on Him: 39, 42.
“And it was at Jerusalem the feast of dedication, and it was winter”
(

John 10:22).
The feast of dedication was observed at Jerusalem in memorial of the
purification of the Temple after it had been polluted by the idolatries of
Antiochus Epiphanes. Proof of this is to be found in the fact that we are
here told the time was “winter.” Therefore the “feast” here mentioned
could not be in remembrance of the dedication of Solomon’s temple, for
this temple had been dedicated at harvest-time (

1 Kings 8:2); nor was it.125
to celebrate the building of Nehemiah’s temple, for that had been dedicated
in the spring-time (

Ezra 6:15, 16). The “feast” here referred to must be
that which had been instituted by Judas Maccabaeus, on his having purified
the temple after the pollution of it by Antiochus, about 165 B. C. This
“feast” was celebrated every year for eight successive days in the month of
December (1 Maccabees 4:52, 59), and is mentioned by Josephus (Antiq.
12:7, etc.). Thus the words, “and it was winter” enable us to identify this
feast.
“And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.”
Here, as always in Scripture, there is a deeper meaning than the mere
historical. The mention of “winter” at this point is most significant and
solemn. This tenth chapter of John closes the first main section of the
fourth Gospel. From this point onwards the Lord Jesus discourses no more
before the religious leaders. His public ministry was almost over. The Jews
knew not their “day of visitation,” and henceforth the things which
“belonged to their peace” were hidden from their eyes (

Luke 19:42). So
far as they were concerned the words of Jeremiah applied with direct and
solemn force:
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved”
(

John 8:20).
For them there was nothing but an interminable “winter.” Significant and
suitable then is this notice of the season of coldness and barrenness as an
introduction to what follows.
What we have just pointed out in connection with the moral force of this
reference to “winter” encourages us to look for a deeper significance in this
mention here of “the feast of the dedication.” Nowhere else in Scripture is
this particular feast referred to. This makes it the more difficult to ascertain
its significance here. That there is some definite reason for the Holy Spirit
noticing it, and that there is a pertinent and profound meaning to it when
contemplated in its connections, we are fully assured. What, then, is it?
As already pointed out, the last half of John 10 closes the first great section
of John’s Gospel, a section which has to do with the public ministry of
Christ. The second section of this Gospel records His private ministry,
concluding with His death and resurrection. The distinctive character of
these two sections correspond exactly with the two chief purposes of our
Lord’s incarnation, which were to present Himself to Israel as their.126
promised Messiah, and to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin. What, then,
remained? Only the still more important work which was to be
accomplished by His death and resurrection. He had presented Himself to
Israel; now, shortly, He would offer Himself as a sacrifice to God. It is to
this “the dedication” here points.
It is in this Gospel, alone of the four, that the Lord Jesus is hailed as “the
lamb of God,” and if the reader will turn back to Exodus 12 he will find
that the “lamb” was to be separated from the flock some days before it was
to be killed (see verses 3, 5, 6). In keeping with this, note how in this
passage (and nowhere else) the Lord Jesus speaks of Himself as the One
whom the Father had “sanctified” (verse 36), and mark how at the end of
the chapter He is seen leaving Jerusalem and going away “beyond Jordan”
(verse 40)! That the Holy Spirit has here prefaced this final conversation
between the Savior and the Jews by mentioning “the feast of the
dedication” is in beautiful and striking accord with the fact that from this
point onwards Christ was now dedicated to the Cross, as hitherto He had
been engaged in manifesting Himself to Israel.
The interpretation suggested above is confirmed and established by two
other passages in the New Testament. The Greek word rendered
“dedication” occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but it is found
twice in its verbal form. In

Hebrews 9:18 we read,
“Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without
blood” (

Hebrews 9:18).
In

Hebrews 10:19, 20 we are told, “Having therefore, brethren,
boldness to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus, by a new and
living way, which he hath consecrated [dedicated] for us, through the veil,
that is to say, his flesh.” In each of these instances “dedication” is
connected with blood-shedding! And it was to this, the shedding of His
precious blood, that the Lord Jesus was now (after His rejection by the
Nation) dedicated! An additional item still further confirming our
exposition is found in the fact that the historical reference in

John 10:22
was to the dedication of the temple, and in

John 2:19 the Savior refers
to Himself as “this temple” — “destroy this temple, and in three days I will
raise it up.” The antitypical dedication of the temple was the Savior
offering Himself to God! Most fitting then was it that the Holy Spirit
should here mention the typical dedication of the temple immediately after.127
the Lord had thrice referred to His “laying down” His life (see verses 15,
17, 18)!
“And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch”
(

John 10:23).
Josephus informs us (Antiq.

John 8:3) that Solomon, when he built the
temple, filled up a part of the valley adjacent to mount Zion, and built a
portico over it toward the East. This was a magnificent structure,
supported by a wall four hundred cubits high, made out of stones of vast
bulk. It continued to the time of Agrippa, which was several years after the
death of Christ. Twice more is mention made of “Solomon’s porch” in the
New Testament, and what is found in these passages points a sharp
contrast from the one now before us. In

Acts 3:11 we are told that,
following the healing of the lame beggar by Peter and John, “all the people
ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly
wondering.” But here in

John 10:23, following our Lord’s healing of
the blind beggar, there is no hint of any wonderment among the people!
Again in

Acts 5:12 we read, “And they were all with one accord in
Solomon’s porch.” This is in evident contrast, designed contrast, from
what is before us in our present passage. Here, immediately after the
reference to our Lord walking in Solomon’s porch, we read, “then came
the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us
to doubt?” They were manifestly out of accord with Him. They were
opposed to Him, and like beasts of prey sought only His life. Thus we see
once more the importance and value of comparing scripture with scripture.
By thus linking together these three passages which make mention of
“Solomon’s porch” we discern the more clearly how that the design of our
passage is to present the God-man as “despised and rejected of men.”
“Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How
long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us
plainly” (

John 10:24).
The appropriateness of this incident at the close of

John 10, and the
force of this request of the Jews — obviously a disingenuous one —
should now be apparent to the reader. Coming as it does right at the close
of the first main section of this Gospel, a section which is concerned with
the public ministry of Christ before Israel, this demand of the religious
leaders makes it plain how useless it was for the Messiah to make any
further advances toward the Nation at large, and how justly He might now.128
abandon them to that darkness which they preferred to the light;, By now,
it was ,unmistakably plain that the religious leaders received him not, and
this request of theirs for Him to tell them “plainly” or “openly” if He were
the Messiah, was obviously made with no other purpose than to gain
evidence that they might apprehend Him as a rebel against the Roman
government. But, if such was their evil design, did they not already have
the needed evidence to formulate the desired charge against Him? The
answer is, No, not evidence sufficiently explicit.
“How long dost thou make us to doubt? if thou be the Christ, tell us
plainly.” It is a significant thing that the Lord Jesus had not declared,
plainly and openly in public, that He was the Messiah. He had avowed His
Messiahship to His disciples (

John 1:41, 49, etc.); to the Samaritans
(

John 4:42), and to the blind beggar (

John 9:37); but He had not
done so before the multitudes or to the religious leaders. This designed
omission accomplished a double purpose: it made it impossible for the
authorities to lawfully seize Him before God’s appointed time, and it
enforced the responsibility of the Nation at large. That the Lord Jesus was
the One that the prophets announced should come, had been abundantly
attested by His person, His life, and His works; yet the absence of any
formal announcement in public served as an admirable test of the people.
His miraculous works — ever termed “signs” in John’s Gospel — were
more than sufficient to prove Him to be the Messiah unto those who were
open-minded; but yet they were not such as to make it possible for the
prejudiced to refuse their assent. This is ever God’s way of dealing with
moral agents. There are innumerable tokens for the existence of a Divine
Creator, sufficient to render all men “without excuse”; yet are these tokens
of such a nature as not to have banished atheism from the earth. There are
a thousand evidences that the Holy Scriptures are the inspired Word of
God, yet are there multitudes who believe them not. There is a great host
of unimpeachable witnesses who testify daily to the Saviourhood of the
Lord Jesus, yet the great majority of men continue in their sins.
Before we pass from this verse a word should be said upon the turpitude of
these Jews. “How. long dost thou make us to doubt?” was inexcusable
wickedness. They were seeking to transfer to Him the onus of their
unbelief. They argued that He was responsible for their unreasonable and
God-dishonoring doubting. This is ever the way with the unregenerate.
When God arraigned Adam, the guilty culprit answered, “The woman
whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat”.129
(

Genesis 3:12). So it is today. Instead of tracing the cause of unbelief to
his own evil heart, the sinner blames God for the insufficiency of
convincing evidence.
“Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works
that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me”
(

John 10:25).
The Lord had told them that He was “the Son of man,” and that as such
the Father had “given him authority to execute judgment” (

John 5:27).
He had told them that He was the One of whom Moses wrote (

John
5:46). He had told them that He was the “living bread” which had come
down from heaven (

John 6:51). He had told them that Abraham had
rejoiced to see His day (

John 8:56). All of these were statements which
intimated plainly that He was the promised One of the Old Testament
Scriptures.
In addition to what He had taught concerning His own person, His
“works” bore conclusive witness to His Messianic office. His “works”
were an essential part of His credentials, as is clear from

Luke 7:19-23:
“And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus,
saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?…
Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what
things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame
walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to
the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall
not be offended in me.”
These were the precise verifications as to what was to take place when the
Messiah appeared — compare

Isaiah 35:5, 6.
“But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto
you” (

John 10:26).
Unspeakably solemn was this word. They were reprobates, and now that
their characters were fully manifested the Lord did not hesitate to tell them
so. The force of this awful statement is definite and clear, though men in
their unbelief have done their best to befog it. Almost all the commentators
have expounded this verse as though its clauses had been reversed. They
simply make Christ to say here to these Jews that they were unbelievers.
But the truth is that the Lord said far more than that. The commentators.130
understand “the sheep” to be nothing more than a synonym for born-again
and justified persons, whereas in fact it is equivalent to God’s elect, as the
sixteenth verse of this chapter clearly shows. The Lord did not say
“Because ye are not of my sheep ye believe not,” but, “Ye believe not,
because ye are not of my sheep.” Man always turns the things of God
upside down. When he comes to something in the Word which is peculiarly
distasteful, instead of meekly submitting to it and receiving it in simple faith
because God says it, he resorts to every imaginable device to make it mean
something else. Here Christ is not only charging these Jews with unbelief,
but He also explains why faith had not been granted to them — they were
not “of his sheep”: they were not among the favored number of God’s
elect. If further proof be required for the correctness of this interpretation,
it is furnished below. A man does not have to believe to become one of
Christ’s “sheep”: he “believes” because he is one of His sheep.
“But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.”
To what is our Lord referring? When had He previously avowed that these
Jews were not of God’s elect? When had He formerly classed them among
the reprobates? The answer is to be found in chapter eight of this same
Gospel. There we find this same company — “the Jews” (see verse 48) —
antagonizing Him, and to them He says, “Why do ye not understand my
speech? even because ye cannot hear my word” (verse 43). This is strictly
parallel with “ye believe not” in

John 10:26. Then, in

John 8, He
explains why they could not “hear his word” — it was because they were
“of their father the devil” (verse 44). Again, in the forty-seventh verse of
the same chapter He said to the Jews, “He that is of God heareth God’s
words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” Strictly
parallel is this with

John 10:26. They “heard not” because they were not
of God: they “believed not” because they were not of His sheep. In each
instance He gives as the reason why they received Him not the solemn fact
that they belonged not to God’s elect: they were numbered among the
reprobates.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”
(

John 10:27).
Here the Lord contrasts the elect from the non-elect. God’s elect hear the
voice of the Son: they hear the voice of the Shepherd because they belong
to His sheep: they “hear” because a sovereign God imparts to them the
capacity to hear, for “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord hath.131
made even both of them” (

Proverbs 20:12). Each of the sheep “hear”
when the irresistible call comes to them, just as Lazarus in the grave heard
when Christ called him.
“And I know them, and they follow me” (

John 10:27).
Each of the sheep are known to Christ by a special knowledge, a
knowledge of approbation. They are valued by Him because entrusted to
Him by the Father. As the Father’s love gift, He prizes them highly. The
vast crowd of the nonelect He “never knew” (

Matthew 7:23) with a
knowledge of approbation; but each of the elect are known affectionately,
personally, eternally. “And they follow me.” They “follow” the example He
has left them; they follow in holy obedience to His commandments; they
follow from love, attracted by His excellent person; they follow on to
know Him better.
“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish,
neither shall any pluck them out of my hand” (

John 10:28).
The connection between this and what has gone before should not be lost
sight of. Christ had been speaking about His approaching death, His laying
down His life for the sheep (verse 15, etc.). Would this, then, imperil the
sheep? No, the very reverse. He would lay down His life in order that it
might be imparted to them. This “life,” Divine and eternal, would be given
to them, not sold or bartered. Eternal life is neither earned as a wage,
merited as a prize, nor won as a crown. It is a free gift, sovereignly
bestowed. But, says the carping objector, All this may be true, but there
are certain conditions which must be fulfilled if this valuable gift is to be
retained, and if these conditions are not complied with the gift will be
forfeited, and the one who receives it will be lost. To meet this legalistic
skepticism, the Lord added, “and they shall never perish.” Not only is the
life given “eternal,” but the ones on whom this precious gift is bestowed
shall never perish: backslide they may, “perish” they shall not, and cannot,
while the Shepherd lives! Hypocrites and false professors make shipwreck
of the faith (not their faith, for they never had any), but no real saint of
God did or will. There are numerous cases recorded in Scripture where
individuals backslided, but never one of a real saint apostatizing. A believer
may fall, but he shall not be utterly cast down (

Psalm 37:24). Quite
impossible is it for a sheep to become a goat, for a man who has been born
again to be unborn..132
“Neither shall any man (any one) pluck them out of my hand.” Here the
Lord anticipates another objection, for the fertile mind of unbelief has
rarely evidenced more ingenuity than it has at this point, in opposing the
blessed truth of the eternal security of God’s children. When the objector
has been forced to acknowledge that this passage teaches that the life given
to the sheep is “eternal,” and that those who receive it shall “never perish,”
he will next make shift by replying, True, no believer will destroy himself,
but what of his many enemies, what of Satan, ever going about as a roaring
lion seeking whom he may devour? Suppose a believer falls into the toils of
the Devil, what then? This, assures our Lord, is equally impossible. The
believer is in the hand of Christ, and none is able to pluck from thence one
of His own. Tease and annoy him the Devil may, but seize the believer he
cannot. Blessed, comforting, re-assuring truth is this! Weak and helpless in
himself, nevertheless, the sheep is secure in the hand of the Shepherd.
“My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all: and none is
able to pluck them out of my Father’s band” (

John 10:29).
Here the Lord anticipates one more objection. He knew full well that there
would be some carping quibblers who would be foolish enough to say,
True, the Devil is unable to pluck us from the hand of Christ, but we are
still “free agents,” and therefore could jump out if we chose to do so.
Christ now bars out this miserable perversion. He shows us how that it is
impossible for a sheep to perish even if it desired to — as though one ever
did! The “hand of Christ” (verse 28) is beneath us, and the “hand” of the
Father is above us. Thus are we secured between the clasped hands of
Omnipotence!
No stronger passage in all the Word of God can be found guaranteeing the
absolute security of every child of God. Note the seven strands in the rope
which binds them to God. First, they are Christ’s sheep, and it is the duty
of the shepherd to care for each of his flock! To suggest that any of
Christ’s sheep may be lost is to blaspheme the Shepherd Himself. Second,
it is said “They follow” Christ, and no exceptions are made; the Lord does
not say they ought to, but declares they do. If then the sheep “follow”
Christ they must reach Heaven, for that is where the Shepherd is gone!
Third, to the sheep is imparted “eternal life”: to speak of eternal life ending
is a contradiction in terms. Fourth, this eternal life is “given” to them: they
did nothing to merit it, consequently they can do nothing to demerit it.
Fifth, the Lord Himself declares that His sheep “shall never perish,”.133
consequently the man who declares that it is possible for a child of God to
go to Hell makes God a liar. Sixth, from the Shepherd’s “hand” none is
able to pluck them, hence the Devil is unable to encompass the destruction
of a single one of them. Seventh, above them is the Father’s “hand,” hence
it is impossible for them to jump out of the hand of Christ even if they tried
to. It has been well said that if one soul who trusted in Christ should be
missing in Heaven, there would be one vacant seat there, one crown
unused, one harp unstrung; and this would grieve all Heaven and proclaim
a disappointed God. But such a thing is utterly impossible.
“I and my Father are one” (

John 10:30).
The R.V. correctly renders this verse, “I and the Father are one.” The
difference between these two translations is an important one. Wherever
the Lord Jesus says, my rather, He is speaking as the Mediator, but
whenever He refers to “the Father,” He speaks from the standpoint of His
absolute Deity. Thus, “my Father is greater than I” (

John 14:28)
contemplates Him in the position of inferiority. “I and the Father are one”
affirms Their unity of nature or essence, one in every Divine perfection.
“I and the Father are one.” There are those who would limit this oneness
between the Father and Son to unity of will and design — the Unitarian
interpretation of the passage. Dr. John Brown has refuted the error of this
so ably and simply that we transcribe from his exposition: “Harmony of will
and design, is not the thing spoken of here; but harmony or union of power
and operation. Our Lord first says of Himself, ‘I give unto my sheep
eternal life, and none shall pluck them out of my hand.’ He then says the
same thing of the Father — ‘None is able to pluck them out of my Father’s
hand.’ He plainly, then, ascribes the same thing to Himself that He does to
the Father, not the same will, but the same work — the same work of
power, therefore the same Power. He mentions the reason why none can
pluck them out of the Father’s hands, — because He is the Almighty, and
no created Power is able to resist Him. The thing spoken of is power, —
Power irresistible. And in order to prove that none can pluck them out of
HIS hand, He adds, ‘I and the Father are one.’ One in what?
unquestionably in the work of power whereby He protects His sheep and
does not suffer them to be plucked out of His hand. What the Father is,
that the Son is. What the work of the Father is, that the work of the Son is.
As the Father is almighty, so is the Son likewise. As nothing can resist the
Father, so nothing can resist the Son. Whatsoever the Father hath, the Son.134
hath likewise. The Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father. These
two are one — in nature, perfection and glory.”
“I and the Father are one.” It is most blessed to observe the connection
between this declaration and what had preceded it. All the diligent care and
tender devotion of the Shepherd for the sheep but expresses the mind and
heart of the Owner toward the flock. The Shepherd and the Owner are
one, one in their relation and attitude toward the flock; one both in power
and in Their loving care for the sheep. Immutably secure then is the
believer. It was the laying hold of these precious truths which caused our
fathers to sing,
How firm a foundation
Ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith,
In His excellent Word.
What more can He say,
Than to you He hath said,
To you who to Jesus
For refuge have fled.
“Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him”
(

John 10:31).
This is quite sufficient to settle the meaning of the previous verse. These
Jews had no difficulty in perceiving the force of what our Lord had just
said to them. They instantly recognized that He had claimed absolute
equality with the Father, and to their ears this was blasphemy. Instead of
saying anything to correct their error, if error it was, Christ went on to say
that which must have confirmed it.
“Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.” Fearful wickedness
was this! Who could imagine that any heart would have been so base, or
any hand so cruel, as to have armed themselves with instruments of death,
against such a Person, while speaking such words! Yet we behold these
Jews doing just this thing, and that within the sacred precincts of the
Temple! A frightful exhibition of human depravity was this. Christ had
done these Jews no wrong. They hated Him without a cause. They hated
Him because of His holiness; and this, because of their sinfulness. Why did
Cain hate Abel?.135
“Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous”
(

1 John 3:12).
Why did the Jews hate Christ? —
“But me it hateth, because I testify of it that the works thereof are
evil” (

John 7:7).
And in that measure in which believers are like Christ, in the same
proportion will they be hated by unbelievers:
“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated
you” (

John 15:18).
“Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from
my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?”
(

John 10:32).
The word “works” is to be understood here in its widest sense. The Lord
appeals to the whole course of His public ministry — His perfect life, His
gracious deeds in ministering to the needs of others, His wondrous words,
wherein He spake as never man had spoken. When He terms these works
as “from the Father” He means not only that they met with the Father’s full
approval, but that they had been done by His authority and command —
“I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do”
(

John 17:4).
“The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee
not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest
thyself God” (

John 10:33).
It was most appropriate for this to be recorded in John’s Gospel, the great
design of which is to present the Deity of the Savior. The carnal mind is
“enmity against God,” and never was this more fully evidenced than when
God incarnate appeared in the midst of men. During His infancy, an
organized effort was made to slay Him (

Matthew 2). In one of the
Messianic Psalms there is more than a hint that during the years Christ
spent in seclusion at Nazareth, repeated attempts were made upon His life
— “I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up” (

Psalm 88:15.
The very first word spoken by Him in the Nazareth synagogue after His
public ministry began, was followed by an attempt to murder Him
(

Luke 4:29). And from that point onwards to the Cross, His steps were.136
dogged by implacable foes who thirsted for His blood. Wonderful beyond
comprehension was that grace of God which suffered His Son to sojourn in
such a world of rebels. Divine was that infinite forbearance which led
Christ to endure “the contradiction of sinners against himself.” Deep,
fervent, and perpetual should be our praise for that love which saved us at
such a cost!
“Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are
gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came,
and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the
Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest;
because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my
Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me,
believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is
in me and I in him” (

John 10:34-38).
Upon these verses we cannot do better than quote from the excellent
remarks of Dr. John Brown:
“Our Lord’s reply consists of two parts. In the first, He shows that
the charge of blasphemy, which they founded on His calling
Himself the Son of God, was a rash one, even though nothing more
could have been said of Him, than that He had been ‘sanctified and
sent by the Father’; and secondly, that His miracles were of such a
kind, as that they rendered whatever He declared of Himself, as to
His intimate connection with the Father, however extraordinary,
worthy of credit.
“Our Lord’s argument in the first part of this answer is founded on
a passage in the

Psalm 82:6; ‘I have said, Ye are gods; and all of
you are children of the most high.’ These words are plainly
addressed to the Jewish magistrates, commissioned by Jehovah to
act as His vicegerents in administering justice to His people: who
judged for God — in the room of God; whose sentences, when
they agreed with the law, were God’s sentences; whose judgment,
was God’s judgment, and rebels against whom, were rebels against
God.
“The meaning and force of our Lord’s argument is obvious. If, in a
book which you admit to be of Divine authority, and all whose
expressions are perfectly faultless, men which have received a.137
Divine communication to administer justice to the people of God
are called ‘gods’ and sons of the Highest; is it not absurd to bring
against One who has a higher commission than they (One who had
been sanctified and sent by the Father), and who presented far more
evidence of His commission, a charge of blasphemy, because He
calls Himself ‘the Son of God’? You dare not charge blasphemy on
the Psalmist; — why do you charge it on Me?… He reasoned with
the Jews on their own principles. Were the Messiah nothing more
than you expect Him to be, to charge One who claims Messiahship
with blasphemy, because He calls Himself the Son of God, is plainly
gross inconsistency. Your magistrates are called God’s sons, and
may not your Messiah claim the same title?
“The second part of our Lord’s reply is contained in the thirty-seventh
and thirty-eighth verses. It is equivalent to — I have
declared that I and the Father are one — one in power and
operation. I do not call on you to believe this merely because of My
testimony, but I do call on you to believe on My testimony
supported by the miracles I have performed, works which nothing
but a Divine power could accomplish. These works are the voice of
God, and its utterance is distinct: it speaks plainly, it utters no dark
saying. You cannot refuse to receive the doctrine that I and the
Father are one, that the Father is in Me, and I in Him, without
contradicting His testimony and calling Him a liar.”
Let us notice one or two details in these verses before we turn to the
conclusion of our chapter. The word “gods” in the eighty-second Psalm,
quoted here by Christ, has occasioned difficulty to some. The magistrates
of Israel were so called because of their authority and power, and as
representing the Divine majesty in government.
Mark how in verse 35 the Savior said, “The scripture cannot be broken.”
What a high honor did He here place upon the written Word! In making
use of this verse from the Psalmist against His enemies, the whole point of
His argument lay in a single word — “gods” — and the fact that it
occurred in the book Divinely inspired. The Scriptures were the final court
of appeal, and here the Lord insists on their absolute authority and verbal
inerrancy.
Observe here Christ’s use of the word “sanctified” in verse 36 refutes many
modem heretics. There are those who teach that to be sanctified is to have.138
the carnal nature eradicated. They insist that sanctification is moral
purification. But how thoroughly untenable is such a definition in the light
of what the Master says here. He declares that He was “sanctified.”
Certainly that cannot mean that He was cleansed from sin, for He was the
Holy One. Here, as everywhere in Scripture, the term sanctified can only
mean set apart. Observe the order: Christ was first sanctified and then sent
into the world. The reference is to the Father’s eternal appointment of the
Son to be the Mediator.
“Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of
their hand” (

John 10:39).
This signifies that these Jews sought to apprehend the Lord Jesus so that
they might bring Him before the Sanhedrin, but they were unable to carry
out their evil designs. Soon He would deliver Himself into their hands, but
until the appointed hour arrived they might as well attempt to harness the
wind as lay hands on the Almighty.
“And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at
first baptized; and there he abode. And many resorted unto him,
and said, John did no miracle: but all things which John spake of
this man were true. And many believed on him there” (

John
10:40-42).
We have already pointed out the significance of this move of Christ. In
leaving Jerusalem — to which He did not return until the appointed “hour”
for His death had arrived — and in going beyond Jordan to where His
forerunner had been, the Lord gave plain intimation that His public ministry
was now over. The Nation at large must be left to suffer the due reward of
their iniquities. In what follows we have a beautiful illustration of this
present dispensation: “Outside the camp” Christ now was, but in this place,
as the despised and rejected One, many resorted to Him. God would not
allow His beloved Son to be universally unappreciated, even though
organized Judaism had turned its back upon Him. Here beyond Jordan He
works no public miracle (as He does not today), but many believed on Him
because of what John had spoken. So it is now. It is the Word which is the
means God uses in bringing sinners to believe on the Savior. Happy for
these men that they knew the day of their visitation, and improved the brief
visit of Christ..139
Let the interested student study the following questions on the first part of
John 11: —
1. Why did not the sisters name the sick one? verse 3.
2. What is the force of the “therefore”? verse 6.
3. Why did not Christ hasten to Bethany at once? verse 6.
4. Why “into Judea” rather than “to Bethany”? verse 7.
5. Why did Christ refer to the “twelve hours in the day”? verse 9.
6. What is meant by the second half of verse 9?
7. What is meant by “walking in the night’? verse 10..140
CHAPTER 37
CHRIST RAISING LAZARUS

JOHN 11:1-10
Below is an Analysis of the first ten verses of John 11.
1. Lazarus and his sisters, verses 1, 2.
2. Their appeal to the Lord, verse 3.
3. God’s design in Lazarus’ sickness, verse 4.
4. The delay of love, verses 5, 6.
5. Christ testing His disciples, verse 7.
6. The disciples’ trepidation, verse 8.
7. The Lord re-assuring the disciples, verses 9, 10.
Before taking up the details of the passage which is to be before us a few
words need to be said concerning the principle design and character of
John 11 and 12. In the preceding chapters we have witnessed the
increasing enmity of Christ’s enemies, an enmity which culminated in His
crucifixion. But before God suffered His beloved Son to be put to death,
He gave a most blessed and unmistakable witness to His glory. “We have
seen, all through John, that no power of Satan could hinder the
manifestation of the Person of Christ. He met with incessant opposition
and undying hatred, the result, however, being that glory succeeds glory in
manifestation, and God was fully revealed in Jesus. That was His purpose,
and who could hinder its accomplishment? ‘Why do the heathen rage and
the people imagine a vain thing?’ Man’s rage against Christ, only served as
an occasion for the manifestation of His glory. Here in John 11 the Son of
God is glorified, the glory of God answering to the rejection of the Person
of Christ in the preceding chapters” (R. Evans: Notes & Meditations on
John’s Gospel).
It is indeed a striking fact, and one to which we have not seen attention
called, that the previous chapters show us Christ rejected in a threefold.141
way, and then God answering by glorifying Christ in a threefold way. In
verse 16 we read, “Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to
slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day”: this was
because of His works. In

John 8:58 we are told, “Jesus said unto them,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am”; and
immediately following, it is recorded, “Then took they up stones to cast at
him”; this was because of His words. While in

John 10:30 the Lord
affirmed, “I and my Father are one,” which is at once followed by, “Then
the Jews took up stones again to stone him”: this was on account of the
claim which He had made concerning His person.
The threefold witness which God caused to be borne to the glory of Christ
in John 11 and 12 corresponds exactly with the threefold rejection above,
though they are met in their inverse order. In

John 10:31 it was Christ
in His absolute Deity, as God the Son, who was rejected. Here in John 11
His Divine glory shines forth most manifestly in the raising of Lazarus. In
John 8 He was rejected because He declared “Before Abraham was, I am.”
There it was more in His Messianic character that He was despised.
Corresponding to this, in

John 12:12-15 we find Him in full Messianic
glory entering Jerusalem as “King of Israel.” In John 5 Christ is seen more
in His mediatorial character, in incarnation as “the Son of man” — note
verse 27. Corresponding to this we find in the third section of

John 12
the Gentiles seeking the Lord Jesus, and to them He answered:
“The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified”
(

John 12:23)!
Man had fully manifested himself. The Light had shone in the darkness,
and the darkness comprehended it not. The deep guilt of men had been
demonstrated by their refusing the sent One from the Father, and their
deadness in trespasses and sins had been evidenced by the absence of the
slightest response to the eternal Word then tabernacling in their midst.
They had seen and hated both Him and His Father (

John 15:24). The
end of Christ’s public ministry was, therefore, well-nigh reached. But
before He goes to the Cross, God gave a final testimony to the glory of His
beloved. Beautiful is it to behold the Father so jealously guarding the honor
of His Son in this threefold way ere He left the stage of public action. And
solemn was it for Israel to be shown so plainly and so fully WHO it was
they had rejected and were about to crucify..142
The darker the night, the more manifest the light which illumines it. The
more the depravity and enmity of Israel were exhibited, the brighter the
testimony which God caused to be borne to the glory of His Son. The end
was almost reached, therefore did the Lord now perform His mightiest
work of all — save only the laying down of His own life, which was the
wonder of all wonders. Six miracles (or as John terms them, “signs”) had
already been wrought by Him, but at Bethany He does that which displayed
His Divine power in a superlative way. Previously we have seen Him
turning water into wine, healing the nobleman’s son, restoring the impotent
man, multiplying the loaves and fishes, walking on the sea, giving sight to
the blind man; but here he raises the dead, yea, brings back to life one who
had lain in the grave four days. Fitting climax was this, and most suitably is
it the seventh “sign” in this Gospel.
It is true that Christ had raised the dead before, but even here the climax is
again to be seen. Mark records the raising of Jairus’ daughter, but she had
only just died. Luke tells of the raising of the widow’s son of Nain, but he
had not been buried. But here, in the case of Lazarus, not only had the
dead man been placed in the sepulcher, but corruption had already begun
to consume the body. Supremely true was it of the just One (

Acts 3:14)
that His path was as the shining light, which shone “more and more unto
the perfect day” (

Proverbs 4:18).
The same climactic order is to be seen in connection with the state of the
natural man which John’s “signs” typically portray. “They have no wine”
(

John 2:3), tells us that the sinner is a total stranger to Divine joy
(

Judges 9:13). “Sick” (

John 4:46), announces the condition of the
sinner’s soul, for sin is a disease which has robbed man of his original
health. The “impotent man” (

John 5:7), shows us that the poor sinner is
“without strength” (

Romans 5:6), completely helpless, unable to do a
thing to better his condition. The multitude without any food of their own
(

John 6:5), witnesses to the fact that man is destitute of that which
imparts strength. The disciples on the storm-tossed sea (

John 6:18),
before the Savior came to them, pictures the dangerous position which the
sinner occupies — already on the “broad road” which leadeth to
destruction. The man blind from his birth (

John 9:1), demonstrates the
fact that the sinner is altogether incapable of perceiving either his own
wretchedness and danger, or the One who alone can deliver him. But in
John 11 we have that which is much more solemn and awful. Here we learn
that the natural man is spiritually dead, “dead in trespasses and sins.”.143
Lower than this we cannot go. Anything more hopeless cannot be
portrayed. In the presence of death, the wisest, the richest, the most mighty
among men have to confess their utter helplessness. This, this is what is set
before us in John 11. Most suitable background for Christ to display
Himself as “the resurrection and the life.” And most striking is this climax
of the “signs” recorded in the fourth Gospel, displaying both the power of
Christ and the condition of the natural man.
“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the
town of Mary and her sister Martha” (

John 11:1).
The object of our Lord’s resurrection-power is first presented to our
notice. His name was Lazarus. At once our minds revert back to Luke 16,
where another “Lazarus” is seen. But how striking the contrast, a contrast
most evidently designed by the Holy Spirit. There are only two mentioned
in the New Testament which bear this name. Here again the ‘law of
comparison and contrast’ helps us. The Lazarus of

Luke 16 was a
beggar, whereas everything goes to show that the Lazarus of

John 11
(cf.

John 12:2, 3) was a man of means. The Lazarus of Luke 16 was
uncared for, for we read of how the dogs came and licked his sores; but the
one in John 11 enjoyed the loving ministrations of his sisters. The Lazarus
of Luke 16 was dependent upon the “crumbs” which fell from another’s
table; whereas in John 12, after his resurrection, the Lazarus of Bethany is
seen at “the table” where the Lord Jesus was. The one in Luke 16 died and
remained in the grave, the one in John 11 was brought again from the dead.
The Holy Spirit has been careful to identify the Lazarus of John 11 as
belonging to Bethany — a word that seems to have a double meaning:
“House of Figs,” and “House of Affliction.” It was the “town” (more
accurately “village”) of Mary and her sister Martha. Though not mentioned
previously by John, this is not the first reference to these sisters in the
Gospel records. They are brought before us at the close of Luke 10, and
what is there recorded about them sheds not a little light upon some of the
details of John 11.
Martha was evidently the senior, for we are told “Martha received him into
her house” (

Luke 10:38). This is most blessed. There were very few
homes which were opened to the Lord Jesus. He was “despised and
rejected of men.” Men hid as it were their faces from Him and “esteemed
him not.” Not only was He unappreciated and unwelcome, but He was.144
“hated.” But here was one who had “received him,” first into her heart, and
then into her home. So far so good. Of her sister, it is said,
“And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet and
heard his word” (

Luke 10:39).
It is indeed striking to note that each time Mary is mentioned in the
Gospel, she is seen at the feet of Christ. She had the deeper apprehension
of the glory of His person. She was the one who enjoyed the most intimacy
with Him. Her’s was the keener spiritual discernment. We shall yet see
how this is strongly confirmed in John 11 and 12.
Next we are told,
“But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him
and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to
serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me” (

Luke 10:40).
The word “cumbered” means “weighted down.” She was burdened by her
“much serving.” Alas, how many there are like her among the Lord’s
people to-day. It is largely due to the over-emphasis which has been placed
upon “Christian service” — much of which is, we fear, but the feverish
energy of the flesh. It is not that service is wrong, but it becomes a snare
and an evil if it be allowed to crowd out worship and the cultivation of
one’s own spiritual life: note the order in

1 Timothy 4:16, “Take heed
unto thyself, and to thy teaching.”
“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art
careful and troubled about many things” (

Luke 10:41).
This is very solemn. The Lord did not commend Martha for her “much
serving.” Instead, He reproved her. He tells her she was distracted and
worried because she had given her attention to “many things.” She was
attempting more than God had called her to do. This is very evident from
the previous verse. Martha felt that her load was too heavy to carry alone,
hence her “bid her therefore that she help me.” Sure sign was this that she
had run without being sent. When any Christian feels as Martha here felt,
he may know that he has undertaken to do more than the Lord has
appointed.
“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part,
which shall not be taken away from her” (

Luke 10:42)..145
Though the Lord reproved Martha, He commended Mary. The “one thing
needful” is “that good part” which Mary had chosen, and that is to receive
from Christ. Mary sat at His feet “and heard his word.” She was conscious
of her deep need, and came to Him to be ministered unto. Later, we shall
see how she ministered unto Christ, and ministered so as to receive His
hearty commendation. But the great lesson for us here is, that we must first
be ministered unto before we are qualified to minister unto others. We
must be receivers, before we can give out. The vessel must be filled, before
it can overflow. The difference then between Martha and Mary is this: the
one ministered unto Christ, the other received from Him, and of the latter
He declared, she “hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken
away from her.” This brief examination of Luke 10, with the information it
gives about the characters of the two sisters of Lazarus will enable us to
understand the better their respective actions and words in John 11.
“It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and
wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick”
(

John 11:2).
This explains why Mary is mentioned first in the previous verse — the only
time that she is. The commentators have indulged in a variety of
conjectures, but the reason is very obvious. John’s Gospel was written
years after the first three, one evidence of which is supplied in the verses
before us. The opening verse of our chapter clearly supposes that the
reader is acquainted with the contents of the earlier Gospels. Bethany was
“the town (village) of Mary and her sister Martha.” This

Luke 10:38
had already intimated. But in addition, both Matthew and Mark record
how that Mary had “anointed” the Lord with her costly ointment in the
house of Simon the leper who also resided in Bethany. It is true her name
is not given either by Matthew or Mark,
f12
but it is very clear that her
name must have been known, for how else could the Lord’s word have
been carried out: “Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be
preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be
spoken of for a memorial of her” (

Mark 14:9). It is this which explains
why Mary is mentioned first in

John 11:1 — she was the better known!
It was at Bethany that Lazarus lived with his sisters. Bethany was but a
village, yet had it been marked out in the eternal counsels of God as the
place which was to witness the greatest and most public miraculous
attestation of the Deity of Christ..146
“Let it be noted that the presence of God’s elect children is the one
thing which makes towns and countries famous in God’s sight. The
village of Martha and Mary is noticed, while Memphis and Thebes
are not named in the New Testament. A cottage where there is
grace, is more pleasant in God’s sight than a palace where there is
none.” (Bishop Ryle).
It was at Bethany there was to be given the final and most conclusive proof
that He who was on the point of surrendering Himself to death and the
grave was none other than the resurrection and the life. Bethany was less
than two miles from Jerusalem (

John 11:18), the headquarters of
Judaism, so that the news of the raising of Lazarus would soon be common
knowledge throughout all Judea.
“Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom
thou lovest is sick” (

John 11:3).
This must not be regarded as a protest; it was not that Martha and Mary
were complaining against Christ because He suffered one whom He loved
to fall sick. Instead, it was simply an appeal to the heart of One in whom
they had implicit confidence. The more closely this brief message from the
sisters is scrutinized, the more will their becoming modesty be apparent.
Instead of prescribing to Christ what should be done in their brother’s case,
they simply acquainted Him with his desperate condition. They did not
request Him to hasten at once to Bethany, nor did they ask Him to heal
their brother by a word from a distance, as once He had restored to health
the nobleman’s son (John 4). Instead, they left it for Him to decide what
should be done.
“Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.” Each word in this touching
message of Martha and Mary is worthy of separate consideration. “Lord”
was the language of believers, for no unbeliever ever so addressed the
despised Nazarene. “Lord” acknowledged His Deity, owned His authority,
and expressed their humility. “Lord, behold”: this is a word which arrests
attention, focalizes interest, and expressed their earnestness. “He whom
thou lovest.” This is highly commendable. They did not say, “he who loves
thee.” Christ’s fathomless love for us, and not our feeble love for Him, is
what we ever need to keep steadily before our hearts. Our love varies; His
knows no change. It is indeed striking to note the way in which the sisters
refer to Lazarus. They did not blame him! They did not even say, “our
brother,” or “thy disciple,” but simply “he whom thou lovest is sick.” They.147
knew that nothing is so quick in discernment as love; hence their appeal to
the omniscient love of Christ. “He whom thou lovest is sick.” There are
two principle words in the Greek to express sickness: the one referring to
the disease itself, the other pointing to its effects — weakness, exhaustion.
It is the latter that was used here. As applied to individual cases in the N.T.
the word here used implies deathly-sick — note its force in

Acts 9:37
and

Philippians 2:26, 27. In

John 5:3 and 7 it is rendered “impotent.”
It is not at all likely that Martha and Mary would have sent to Christ from
such a distance had not their brother’s life been in danger. The force, then,
of their message was, “He whom thou lovest is sinking.”
The verse now before us plainly teaches that sickness in a believer is by no
means incompatible with the Lord’s love for such an one. There are some
who teach that sickness in a saint is a sure evidence of the Lord’s
displeasure. The case of Lazarus ought forever to silence such an error.
Even the chosen friends of Christ sicken and die. How utterly incompetent
then are we to estimate God’s love for us by our temporal condition or
circumstances!
“No man knoweth either love or hatted by all that is before them”
(

Ecclesiastes 9:1).
What then is the practical lesson for us in this? Surely this: “Therefore
judge nothing before the time” (

1 Corinthians 4:5). The Lord loves
Christians as truly when they are sick as when they are well.
It is blessed to mark how Martha and Mary acted in the hour of their need.
They sought the Lord, and unburdened their hearts to Him. Do we always
act thus? It is written,
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”
(

Psalm 46:1);
yet, to our shame, how little we know Him as such. When the people
murmured against Moses, we are told that, “he cried unto the Lord”
(

Exodus 15:25). When Hezekiah received the threatening letter from
Rabshakeh, he “spread it before the Lord” (

Isaiah 37:14). When John
the Baptist was beheaded his disciples “went and told Jesus” (

Matthew
14:12). What examples for us! We have not an High Priest who cannot be
touched with the feeling of our infirmities. No, He is full of compassion,
for when on earth He, too, was” acquainted with grief.” He sympathizes
deeply with His suffering people, and invites them to pour out the anguish.148
of their hearts before Him. What a blessed proof of this we find in

John
20. When He met the tearful Mary on the morn of His resurrection, He
asked her, “Woman, why weepest thou?” (

John 20:15). Why ask here
such a question? Did He not know the cause of her sorrowing? Certainly
He did. Was it a reproach? We do not deem it such. Was it not rather
because He wanted her to unburden her heart before Him! “Cast thy
burden upon the Lord” is ever His word. This is what Martha and Mary
were doing. The Lord grant that every tried and troubled reader of these
lines may go and do likewise.
The action of these sisters and the wording of their appeal afford us a
striking example of how we should present our petitions to the Lord. Much
of the present-day teaching on the subject of prayer is grossly dishonoring
to God. The Most High is not our servant to be brought into subjection to
our will. Prayer was never designed to place us on the Throne, but to bring
us to our knees before it. It is not for the creature to dictate to the Creator.
It/s the happy privilege of the Christian to make known His requests with
thanksgiving. But, “requests” are not commands. Petitioning is a very
different matter from commanding. Yet we have heard men and women
talk to God not only as if they were His equals, but as though they had the
right to order Him about. Coming to the Throne of Grace with “boldness”
does not mean with impious impudence. The Greek word signifies
“freedom of speech.” It means that we may tell out our hearts as God’s
children, never forgetting though, that He is our Father.
The sisters of Lazarus acquainted the Lord with the desperate condition of
their brother, appealed to His love, and then left the case in His hands, to
be dealt with as He saw best. They were not so irreverent as to tell Him
what to do. In this they have left all praying souls a worthy example which
we do well to follow. “Commit thy way unto the Lord”: that is our
responsibility. “Trust also in him”; that is our happy privilege. “Trust also
in him,” not dictate to Him, and not demand from Him. People talk of
“claiming” from God. But grace cannot be “claimed,” and all is of grace.
The very “throne” we approach is one of grace. How utterly incongruous
then to talk of “claiming” anything from the Sitter on such a throne.
“Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him, and he shall bring it to
pass.” But it must ever be kept in mind that He will “bring it to pass” in His
own sovereign way and in His own appointed time. And oftentimes,
usually so in fact, His way and time will be different from ours. He brought
it to pass for Martha and Mary, though not in the time and way they.149
probably expected. The Apostle Paul longed to preach the Gospel in
Rome, but how slow he was in realizing his desire and in what an
altogether unlooked-for manner went he there!
“When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death,
but for the glory of God” (

John 11:4).
We take it that this was our Lord’s answer to the messenger, rather than a
private word to His disciples, though probably it was spoken in their
hearing. And what a mysterious answer it was! How strangely worded!
How cryptic! What did He mean? One thing was evident on its surface:
Martha and Mary were given the assurance that both the sickness of
Lazarus and its issue were perfectly known to Christ — how appropriately
was the record of this reserved for John’s Gospel; how perfectly in accord
with the whole tenor of it!
“This sickness is not unto death.” This declaration is similar in kind to what
was before us in

John 9:3, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his
parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” —
compare our comments thereon. The sickness of Lazarus was “not unto
death” in the ordinary sense of the word, that is, unto abiding death —
death would not be the final end of this “sickness.” But why not have told
the exercised sisters plainly that their brother would die, and that He would
raise him from the dead? Ah! that is not God’s way; He would keep faith in
exercise, have patience developed, and so order things that we are
constantly driven to our knees! The Lord said sufficient On this occasion to
encourage hope in Martha and Mary, but not enough to make them leave
off seeking God’s help! Bishop Ryle has pointed out how that we
encounter the same principle and difficulty in connection with much of
unfulfilled prophecy: “There is sufficient for faith to rest upon and to
enkindle hope, but sufficient also to make us cry unto God for light”!
“This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God.” What a word
was this! How far, we wonder, had those two sisters entered into such a
thought concerning the sickness of their brother. But now they were to
learn that it was Divinely ordained, and from the sequel we are shown that
Lazarus’ sickness, his death, the absence of Christ from Bethany, and the
blessed issue, were all arranged by Him who doeth all things well. Let us
learn from this that God has a purpose in connection with every detail of
our lives. Many are the scriptures which show this. The case of the man
born blind provides a parallel to the sickness and death of Lazarus. When.150
the disciples asked why he had been born blind, the Savior answered, “That
the works of God should be manifest in him.” This should teach us to look
behind the outward sorrows and trials of life to the Divine purpose in
sending them.
“This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the
Son of God might be glorified thereby” (

John 11:4).
How this shows that the glory of God is one with the glory of the Son! The
two are inseparable. This comes out plainly, again, if we compare

John
2:11 with

John 11:40. In the former we are told, “This beginning of
miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee and manifested forth his glory.” In the
latter we find Him saying to Martha, as He was on the point of raising
Lazarus, “Said I not unto thee, that. if thou wouldest believe, thou
shouldest see the glory of God.” The same truth is taught once more in

John 14:13, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that
the Father may be glorified in the Son.” What then is the lesson for us?
This: “All men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father”
(

John 5:23).
“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus”
(

John 11:5).
Here the order of their names is reversed from what we have in verse 1.
Martha is now mentioned first. Various conjectures have been made as to
why this is. To us it appears the more natural to mention Mary first at the
beginning of the narrative, for she would be the better known to the
readers of the Gospel records. In

John 11:5, and so afterwards, it was
suitable to name Martha first, seeing that she was the senior. But in
addition to this, may it not be the Holy Spirit’s design to show us that each
sister was equally dear to the Savior! It is true that Mary chose the better
part, whilst Martha struggled with the needless unrest of her well-meaning
mind. But though these sisters were of such widely dissimilar types, yet
were they one in Christ! Diverse in disposition they might be, yet were they
both loved with the same eternal, unchanging love!
“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” A precious
thought will be lost here unless we mark carefully the exact place in the
narrative that this statement occupies. It is recorded not at the beginning of
the chapter, but immediately before what we read of in verse 6, where we
are told that the Lord Jesus “abode two days still in the place where he.151
was.” Such a delay, under such circumstances, strikes us as strange. But,
as we shall see, the delay only brought out the perfections of Christ — His
absolute submission to the Father’s will. In addition to that, it is beautiful
to behold that His delay was also in full keeping with His love for Martha
and Mary. Among other things, Christ designed to strengthen the faith of
these sisters by suffering it to endure the bitterness of death, in order to
heighten its subsequent joy. “His love wittingly delays that it may more
gloriously console them after their sufferings” (Stier). Let us learn from
this that when God makes us wait, it is the sign that He purposes to bless,
but in His own way — usually a way so different from what we desire and
expect. What a word is that in

Isaiah 30:18, “And therefore will the
Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be
exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of
judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him”!
“When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days
still in the same place where he was” (

John 11:6).
The Lord knows best at what time to relieve His suffering people. There
was no coldness in His affection for those tried sisters (as the sequel clearly
shows), but the right moment for Him to act had not then come. Things
were allowed to become more grievous: the sick one died, and still the
Master tarried. Things had to get worse at Bethany before He intervened.
Ofttimes God brings man to the end of himself before He comes to his
relief. There is much truth in the old proverb that “Man’s extremity is
God’s opportunity.” Frequently is this the Lord’s way; but how trying to
flesh and blood! How often we ask, with the disciples, “Master, carest thou
not that we perish?” But how awful to question the tender compassion of
such a One! And how foolish was the question of these disciples: how
could they “perish” with Christ on board! What cause we have to hang our
heads in shame!
“When circumstances look dark, our hearts begin to question the
love of the One who permits such to befall us. Oh, let me press
upon you this important truth: the dealings of the Father’s hand
must ever be looked at in the light of the Father’s heart. Grasp
this. Never try to interpret love by its manifestations. How often
our Father sends chastisement, sorrow, bereavement, pressure!
How well He could take me out of it all — in a moment — He has
the power, but He leaves me there. Oh, may He help us to rest.152
patiently in Himself at such times, not trying to read His love by
circumstances, but them, whatever they may be, through the love of
His heart. This gives wondrous strength — knowing that loving
heart, and not questioning the dealings of His hand” (C.H.M.).
But why did Christ abide two days still in the same place where He was?
To test the faith of the sisters, to develop their patience, to heighten their
joy in the happy sequel. All true; but there was a much deeper reason than
those. Christ had taken upon Him the form of a servant, and in perfect
submission to the Father He awaits His orders from Him. Said He,
“I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of
him that sent me” (

John 6:38).
Most beautifully was this demonstrated here. Not even His love for Martha
and Mary would move Him to act before the Father’s time had come.
Blessedly does this show us the anti-typical fulfillment of one detail in a
most wondrous type found in Leviticus 2. The meal offering plainly
foreshadowed the incarnate Son of God. It displays the perfections of His
Divine-human person. Two things were rigidly excluded from this offering:
“No meat offering, which ye shall bring unto the Lord, shall be
made with leaven: for ye shall burn no leaven, nor any honey, in
any offering of the Lord made by fire” (

Leviticus 2:11).
The leaven is the emblem of evil. “Honey” stands for the sweetness of
natural affections, what men term “the milk of human kindness.” And how
strikingly this comes out here.
How differently Christ acted from what you and I most probably would
have done! If we had received a message that a loved one was desperately
sick, would we not have hastened to his side without delay? And why
would we? Because we sought God’s glory? or because our natural
affections impelled us? Ah! in this, as in everything, we behold the
uniqueness of the Lord Jesus. The Father’s glory was ever dearest to the
heart of the Son. Here then is the force of the “therefore.” “When therefore
he heard that he is sick, then indeed he remained in which he was place two
days” (Bagster’s Interlinear-literal translation). The “therefore” and the
“indeed” look back to verse 4 — “this sickness… is for the glory of God.”
And how what we read of in the intervening verse serves to emphasize this
— Christ’s love for His own never interfered with His dependence on the
Father. His first recorded utterance exhibited the same principle: to Mary.153
and Joseph He said, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s
business?” The Father’s claims were ever supreme.
“Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judea
again” (

John 11:7).
Notice the manner in which the Lord expressed Himself. He did not say,
Let us go to Lazarus, or to Bethany. Why not? We believe the key to the
Lord’s thought here lies in the word “again”: note the disciples’ use of the
same word in the following verse. The Lord was trying the disciples: “Let
us go into Judea again.” If we refer back to the closing verses of John 10
the force of this will be more evident. In

John 10:39 we read that His
enemies in Judea “sought again to take him.” Judea, then, was now the
place of opposition and danger. When, then, the Lord said, “Let us go into
Judea again,” it was obviously a word of testing. And how this illustrates a
common principle in the Lord’s way of dealing with us! It is not the
smooth and easy-going path which He selects for us. When we are led by
Him it is usually into the place of testing and trial, the place which the flesh
ever shrinks from.
“His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to
stone thee; and goest thou thither again?” (

John 11:8).
The Greek is more definite and specific than the A.V. rendering here. What
the disciples said was, “Master, the Jews just now sought to stone thee;
and goest thou thither again?” The attempt of His enemies to stone Christ
was still present before the eyes of the disciples, though they had now been
some little time at Bethabara. The disciples could see neither the need nor
the prudence of such a step. How strange the Lord’s ways seem to His
shortsighted people; how incapable is our natural intelligence to understand
them! And how this manifests the folly of believers being guided by what
men term “common sense.” How much all of us need to heed constantly
that word,
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own
understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct
thy paths” (

Proverbs 3:5, 6).
God often leads His own into places which are puzzling and perplexing and
where we are quite unable to perceive His purpose and object. How often
are the servants of Christ today called upon to fill positions from which
they naturally shrink, and which they would never have chosen for.154
themselves. Let us ever remember that the One who is our Lord and
Master knows infinitely better than we the best road for us to travel.
“Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man
walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this
world” (

John 11:9).
This verse has proved a puzzle to many, yet we believe its meaning can be
definitely fixed. The first thing to bear in mind is that the Lord Jesus here
was answering the timidity and unbelief of the disciples. They were
apprehensive: to return to Judea, they supposed, was to invite certain death
(cf.

John 11:16). Christ’s immediate design, then, was to rebuke their
fears. “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” That is, Has not the “day” a
definitely allotted time? The span of the day is measured, and expires not
before the number of hours by which it is measured have completed their
course. The night comes not until the clock has ticked off each of the hours
assigned to the day. The application of this well-known fact to the Lord’s
situation at that time is obvious.
A work had been given Him to do by the Father (

Luke 2:49), and that
work He would finish (

John 17:4), and it was impossible that His
enemies should take His life before its completion. In

John 10:39 we are
told that His enemies “sought again to take him,” but “he went forth out of
their hand” — not simply “escaped” as in the A.V. What the Lord here
assures His disciples, is, that His death could not take place before the time
appointed by the Father. The Lord had expressly affirmed the same thing
on a previous occasion: “The same day there came certain of the Pharisees,
saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence; for Herod will kill thee.”
And what was His reply? This,
“Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out demons, and I do cures
today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected”
(

Luke 13:32)!
“As a traveler has twelve hours for his day’s journey, so also to Me there is
a space of time appointed for My business” (Hess). What we have here in

John 11:9 is parallel to His statement in

John 9:4 — “I must work
the works of him that. sent me, while it is day” — “must” because the
Father had decreed that He should!
This word of Christ to His disciples had more than a local significance: it
enunciated a principle of general application. There is no need for us to.155
enlarge upon it here, for we have already treated of it in our remarks upon

John 7:30. God has allotted to each man a time to do his life’s work,
and no calamity, no so-called accident can shorten it. Can man make the
sun set one hour earlier? Neither can he shorten by an hour his life’s day.
In the second part of the ninth verse the Lord announced another reason
why it was impossible for men to shorten His life: “If any man walk in the
day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.” To walk in
the day is to walk in the light of the sun, and such an one stumbleth not, for
he is able to see the obstacles in his way and so circumvent them.
Spiritually, this means, It is impossible that one should fall who is walking
with God. To “walk in the day” signifies to walk in the presence of Him
who is Light (

1 John 1:5), to walk in communion with Him, to walk in
obedience to His will. None such can stumble, for His Word is a lamp unto
our feet and a light unto our path. It is beautiful to see the application of
this to the Lord Jesus in the present instance. When He got word that
Lazarus was sick, He did not start at once for Bethany. Instead, He tarried
where He was till the Father’s time for Him to go had come. He waited for
the “light” to guide Him — a true Israelite watching for the moving of the
Cloud! Christ ever walked in the full light of God’s known will. How
impossible then for Him to “stumble.”
“But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no
light in him” (

John 11:10).
Very solemn and searching is this in its immediate application to the
disciples. It was a warning against their refusing to accompany Him. Christ
was the true Light, and if they continued not with Him they would be in the
dark, and then “stumbling” was inevitable. The thought here is different
from what we get at the close of

John 9:4. There Christ speaks of a
“night” in which no man could “work”; here of a “night” in which no
believer should “walk.” The great lesson for us in these two verses is this,
No fear of danger (or unpleasant consequences) must deter us from doing
our duty. If the will of God clearly points in a certain direction our
responsibility is to move in that direction unhesitatingly, and we may go
with the double assurance that no power of the Enemy can shorten our life
till the Divinely appointed task is done, and that such light will be
vouchsafed us that no difficulties in the way will make us “stumble.” What
shall we say to such a blessed assurance? What but the words of the
apostle Jude, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to.156
present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to
the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power,
both now and ever. Amen” (verses 24, 25).
The following questions are designed to help the interested student for our
next lesson: —
1. Death is likened to “sleeping,” verse 11: what thoughts are
suggested by this figure?
2. Why did the disciples misunderstand Christ, verse 13?
3. Why was Christ “glad” for the disciples sake, verse 15?
4. What is signified by the “four days,” verse 17?
5. Why are we told of the nearness of Jerusalem to Bethany, verse 18?
6. Why “resurrection” before “life” in verse 25?
7. What is the force of “shall never die,” verse 26?.157
CHAPTER 38
CHRIST RAISING LAZARUS (CONTINUED)

JOHN 11:11-27
The following is a suggested Analysis of the passage which is to be before
us: —
1. Christ announces Lazarus’ death, but the disciples misunderstand
Him, verses 11-13.
2. Christ rejoices for their sake that He had been absent from Bethany,
verses 14, 15.
3. Thomas’ melancholy devotion, verse 16.
4. Lazarus in the grave four days already, verse 17.
5. The nearness of Jerusalem to Bethany, verse 18.
6. Many Jews come to comfort the sisters, verse 19.
7. The conversation between Christ and Martha, verses 20-27.
In the previous lesson we have seen how the Lord Jesus received a
touching message that Lazarus was dying; in the passage now before us we
behold Him making for Bethany, Lazarus having died and been buried in
the interval. The central thing in John 11 is Christ made known as the
resurrection and the life, and everything in it only serves to bring out by
way of contrast the blessedness of this revelation. Resurrection can be
displayed only where death has come in, and what is so much emphasized
here is the desolation which death brings and man’s helplessness in the
presence of it. First, Lazarus himself is dead; then Thomas speaks of the
disciples accompanying the Lord to Bethany that they may die with Him
(

John 11:16); then Martha comes before us; and though in the presence
of Christ, she could think only of the death of her brother (

John 11:21);
it was the same with Mary (

John 11:32); finally, the Jews who had
come to comfort the bereaved sisters are seen “weeping” (

John 11:33),
and even as the Lord stands before the grave, they have no thought that He.158
was about to release the tomb’s victim (

John 11:37). What a
background was all this for Christ to display His wondrous glory!
It is not difficult for us to discern here behind the dark shadows that which
is far more solemn and tragic. Physical death is but the figure, as well as
the effect, of another death infinitely more dreadful. The natural man is
dead in trespasses and sins. The wages of sin is death, and when the first
man sinned he received those fearful wages. In the day that Adam ate of
the forbidden fruit he died, died spiritually, as a penal infliction. And Adam
died spiritually not only as a private individual, but as the head and public
representative of his race. Just as the severing of the trunk of a tree from
its roots, means (in a short time) the death of each of its boughs, twigs and
leaves, so the fall of Adam dragged down with him every member of the
human race. It is for this reason that every one born into this world enters
it “alienated from the life of God” (

Ephesians 4:18).
Yes, the natural man, the world over, is spiritually dead. He is alive
worldwards, selfwards, sinwards, but dead Godwards. It is not that there is
a spark of life within which by careful cultivation or religious exercises may
be fanned into a flame; he is completely devoid of Divine life. He needs to
be born again; an altogether new life, than the one he possesses by nature,
must be imparted to him, if ever he is to enter the kingdom of God. The
sinner’s condition is far, far worse than he has any idea of, or than the great
majority of the doctors of divinity suppose. Of what use is a “remedy” to
one who is dead? and yet the thoughts of very few rise any higher when
they think and talk of the Gospel. Of what use is it to reason and argue
with a corpse? and yet that is precisely what the sinner is from the
standpoint of God. “Then, why preach the Word to sinners at all, if they
are incapable of hearing it?” is the question which will naturally occur to
the reader. Sad, sad indeed that such a question is asked at this late day —
sad, because of the God-dishonoring ignorance which it displays.
No intelligent servant of God preaches the Word because he imagines that
the will and mind of the sinner is capable of responding to it, any more than
when God commanded Ezekiel to
“Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones,
hear the word of the Lord” (

Ezekiel 37:4),
he supposed the objects of his message were capable of responding. “Well,
why preach at all?” First, because God has commanded us to do so, and.159
who are we to call into question His wisdom? Second, because the very
words we are commanded to preach, “they are spirit, and they are life”
(

John 6:63). The Word we are to “hold forth” is “the word of life”
(

Philippians 2:16). The new birth is “not of blood (by natural descent),
nor of the will of the flesh (his own volition), nor of the will of man (the
preacher’s persuasion), but OF GOD” (

John 1:13), and the seed which
God uses to produce the new birth is His own Word (

James 1:18).
Now this is what is so strikingly and so perfectly illustrated here in John
11. Lazarus was dead, and that he had died was unmistakably evidenced by
the fact that his body was already corrupting. In like manner, the spiritual
death of the natural man is plainly manifested by the corruptions of his
heart and life. In the opening paragraph we have sought to bring out how
that which is emphasized here in John 11 is the utter helplessness of man in
the presence of death. And this is what the servant of God needs to lay
hold of in its spiritual application. If it was only a matter of stupidity in the
sinner, we might overcome that by clearly reasoned statements of the truth.
If it was simply a stubborn will that stood in the way of the sinner’s
salvation, we could depend upon our powers of persuasion. If it was
merely that the sinner’s soul was sick, we could induce him to accept some
“remedy.” But in the presence of death we are impotent.
“All of this sounds very discouraging,” says the reader. So much the better
if it results in bringing us upon our faces before God. Nothing is more
healthful than to be emptied of self-sufficiency. The sooner we reach this
place the better. “For we,” said Paul, “have no confidence in the flesh”
(

Philippians 3:3). The quicker we are made to realize our own
helplessness, the more likely are we to seek help from God. The sooner we
recognize that “the flesh profiteth nothing” (

John 6:63), the readier
shall we be to cry unto God for His all-sufficient grace. It is not until we
cease to depend upon ourselves that we begin to depend upon God.
“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible”
(

Matthew 19:26),
and this, be it remembered, was said by Christ in answer to the disciples’
query, “Who then can be saved?”
Here, then, is where light breaks in. Here is where the “glory of God”
(

John 11:4) shines forth. Man may be helpless before death, not so
God. Lazarus could not raise himself, nor could his beloved sisters and.160
sorrowing friends bring him back from the grave. Ah! but He who is,
Himself, “the resurrection and the life” comes on the scene, and all is
altered. And what does He do? Why, He did that which must have seemed
surpassingly strange to all who beheld Him. He cried to the dead man,
“Come forth.” But what was the use of doing that? Had Lazarus the power
in himself to come forth? Most certainly not — had Mary or Martha, or
any of the apostles cried, “Lazarus, come forth” that would have been
unmistakably evidenced. No man’s voice is able to pierce the depths of the
tomb. But it was One who was more than man, who now spake, and He
said, “Come forth” not because Lazarus was capable of doing so, but
because it was life-giving Voice which spake. The same omnipotent lips
which called a world into existence by the mere fiat of His mouth, now
commanded the grave to give up its victim. It was the Word of power
which penetrated the dark portals of that sepulcher. And here, dear reader,
is the comforting, inspiring, and satisfying truth for the Christian worker.
We are sent forth to preach the Word to lost and dead sinners, because,
under the sovereign application of the Holy Spirit, that Word is “the word
of life.” Our duty is to cry unto God daily and mightily that He may be
pleased to make it such to some, at least, of those to whom we speak.
Before we come to the actual raising of Lazarus, our chapter records many
interesting and instructive details which serve to heighten the beauty of its
central feature. The Lord Jesus was in no hurry; with perfect composure
He moved along in Divine dignity and yet human compassion to the grief-stricken
home at Bethany. At every point two things are prominent: the
imperfections of man and the perfections of Christ.
“These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend
Lazarus sleepeth” (

John 11:11).
The “these things” are the declaration that the sickness of Lazarus was for
the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby (

John
11:4); His expressed intention of returning to Judea (

John 11:7); and
His avowed assurance that there could be no “stumbling” seeing that He
ever walked in the unclouded light of the Father’s countenance (

John
11:9). In these three things we learn the great principles which regulated
the life of Christ — lowliness, dependence, obedience. He now announced
that Lazarus was no longer in the land of the living, referring to his death
under the figure of “sleep.” The figure is a very beautiful one, and a
number of most blessed thoughts are suggested by it. It is a figure.161
frequently employed in the Scriptures, both in the Old and New
Testaments: in the former it is applied to saved and unsaved: but in the
N.T. it is used only of the Lord’s people.
f13
In the N.T. it occurs in such
well-known passages as

1 Corinthians 15:20, 51:
“Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of
them that slept… Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all
sleep, but we shall all be changed”;
and

1 Thessalonians 4:14, 5:10:
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also
which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him…. Who died for us,
that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.”
Below we give some of the leading thoughts suggested by this figure: —
First, sleep is perfectly harmless. In sleep there is nothing to fear, but,
much to be thankful for. It is a friend and not a foe. So, for the Christian, is
it with death. Said David, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death I will fear no evil.” Such ought to be the triumphant
language of every child of God. The “sting” has gone from death (

1
Corinthians 15:56, 57), and has no more power to hurt one of Christ’s
redeemed, than a hornet has after its sting has been extracted.
Second, sleep comes as a welcome relief after the sorrows and toils of the
day. As the wise man declared, “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet”
(

Ecclesiastes 5:12). Death, for the believer, is simply the portal through
which he passes from this scene of sin and turmoil to the paradise of bliss.
As

1 Corinthians 3:22 tells us, “death” is ours. Sleep is a merciful
provision, not appreciated nearly as much as it should be. The writer
learned this lesson some years ago when he witnessed a close friend, who
was suffering severely, seeking sleep in vain for over a week. Equally
merciful is death for one who is prepared. Try to imagine David still alive
on earth after three thousand years! Such a protracted existence in this
world of sin and suffering would probably have driven him hopelessly crazy
long ago. How thankful we ought to be that we have not the longevity of
the antediluvians!
Third, in sleep we lie down to rise again. It is of but brief duration; a few
hours snatched from our working time, then to awaken and rise to a new
day. In like manner, death is but a sleep and resurrection, an awakening..162
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting
contempt” (

Daniel 12:2).
On the glorious resurrection morn the dead in Christ shall be awakened, to
sleep no more, but live forever throughout the perfect Day of God.
Fourth, sleep is a time of rest. The work of the day is exchanged for sweet
repose. This is what death means for the Christian:
“Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea,
saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors” (

Revelation
14:13).
This applies only to the “intermediate state,” between death and
resurrection. When we receive our glorified bodies there will be new
ministries for us to engage in, for it is written, “His servants shall serve
him” (

Revelation 22:3).
Fifth, sleep shuts out the sorrows of life. In sleep we are mercifully
unconscious of the things which exercise us throughout the day. The
repose of night affords us welcome relief from that which troubles us by
day. It is so in death. Not that the believer is unconscious, but that those in
paradise know nothing of the tears which are shed on earth. Scripture
seems to indicate that there is one exception in their knowledge of what is
transpiring down here: the salvation of sinners is heralded on high
(

Luke 15:7, 10).
Sixth, one reason perhaps why death is likened to a sleep is to emphasize
the ease with which the Lord will quicken us. To raise the dead (impossible
as it appears to the skeptic) will be simpler to Him than arousing a sleeper.
It is a singular thing that nothing so quickly awakens one as being
addressed by the voice. So we are told “the hour is coming, in the which all
that are in the graves shall hear his voice” (

John 5:28).
Seventh, sleep is a time when the body is fitted for the duties of the
morrow. When the awakened sleeper arises he is refreshed and invigorated,
and ready for what lies before him. In like manner, the resurrected believer
will be endued with a new power. The limitations of his mortal body will
no longer exist. That which was sown in weakness shall be raised in power..163
But O how vastly different is it for one who dies in his sins. The very
reverse of what we have said above will be his portion. Instead of death
delivering him from the sorrows of this life, it shall but introduce him to
that fearful place whose air is filled with weeping and wailing and gnashing
of teeth. It is true that sinners too shall be raised from the dead, but it will
be unto “the resurrection of damnation.” It will be in order to receive
bodies in which they will suffer still more acutely the eternal torments of
the lake of fire. To all such, death will be far worse than the most frightful
nightmare. And O unsaved reader, there is but a step between thee and
death. Your life hangs by a slender thread, which may snap at any moment.
Be warned then, ere it is too late. Flee, even now, from the wrath to come.
Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, for there is no hope beyond the
grave.
“After that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I
go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (

John 11:11).
What marvelous condescension was it for the Lord of glory to call a poor
worm of the earth His “friend”! But note He said, “Our friend.” This, we
believe, was a word of rebuke to His fearful and distrustful disciples; Our
friend — yours, as well as Mine. He has also shown you kindness. You
have professed to love him; will you now leave him to languish! His sisters
are sorrowing, will you ignore them in their extremity! That is why He here
says “I go” — contrast the “us” in verses 7 and 15. Our friend — I go. I to
whom the danger is greatest. I am ready to go. It was both a rebuke and an
appeal. He had told them that the sickness of Lazarus was in order that the
Son of God might be glorified thereby (

John 11:4), would they be
indifferent as to how that glory would be displayed!
“I go that I may awaken” — go, even though to His own death. He
“pleased not himself.” Thoughts of His own personal safety would no more
retard Him than He had allowed personal affection to hasten Him. What is
before Him was the Father’s glory, and no considerations of personal
consequences would keep Him from being about His Father’s business.
The moment had come for the Father’s glory to shine forth through the
Son: therefore, His “I go,” sharply contrasted from the “he abode two days
still” of

John 11:6. He was going to awaken Lazarus:
“None can awaken Lazarus out of this sleep, but He who made
Lazarus. Every mouse or gnat can raise us from that other sleep;
none but an omnipotent power from this.” (R. Hall)..164
“Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit
Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of
taking of rest in sleep” (

John 11:12, 13).
It is clear from their language that the disciples had not understood the
Lord: they supposed He meant that Lazarus was recovering. Yet, the
figure He had used was not obscure; it was one which the Old Testament
scriptures should have made them thoroughly familiar with. Why then, had
they failed to perceive His meaning? The answer is not hard to find. They
were still timid and hesitant of returning to Judea. But why should that
have clouded their minds? Because they were occupied with temporal
circumstances. It was “stoning” they were concerned about, the stoning of
their beloved Lord — though if He was stoned, there was not much
likelihood that they would escape. And when our thoughts are centered
upon temporal things, or when selfish motives control us, our spiritual
vision is eclipsed. It is only as our eye is single (to God’s glory) that our
whole body is full of light. “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is
dead” (

John 11:14). What a proof was this of the omniscience of Christ.
He knew that Lazarus was already dead, though the disciples supposed he
was recovering from his sickness. No second message had come from
Bethany to announce the decease of the brother of Martha and Mary. And
none was needed. Though in the form of a servant, in the likeness of man,
Christ was none other than the Mighty God, and clear proof of this did He
here furnish. How blessed to know that our Savior is none other than
Immanuel!
“And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye
may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him” (

John 11:15).
But why should Christ be glad for the disciples’ sake that He was absent
from Bethany at the time Lazarus was sinking? Because the disciples
would now be able to witness a higher manifestation of His glory, than
what they otherwise would had He been present while Lazarus was sick.
But what difference would His presence there have made? This: it is
impossible to escape the inference that had the Lord Jesus been there,
Lazarus had not died — impossible not only because His words to the
disciples plainly implied it, but also because of what other scriptures teach
us on that point. The implication is plain: what the Lord unmistakably
signified here was that it was inconsistent with His presence that one
should die in it. It is a most striking thing that there is no trace of any one.165
having died in the presence of the Prince of Life (

Acts 3:15). And
furthermore, the Gospel records show that whenever Christ came into the
presence of death, death at once fled before Him! As to the non-possibility
of any one dying in the presence of Christ, we have an illustration in
connection with what took place in Gethsemane. When the officers came
to arrest the Savior, Peter drew his sword and smote the high priest’s
servant, with the obvious intention of slaying him. But in vain. Instead of
cleaving his head asunder he simply severed an ear! More striking still is
the case of the two thieves who were crucified with Him: They died after
He had given up His spirit! As to death fleeing at the approach of Christ
we have a most remarkable example in the case of the widow’s son of
Nain. Here it was different than in the instances of Jairus’ daughter and the
brother of Martha and Mary. Each of these had appealed to Him but here it
was otherwise. A man was about to be buried, and as the funeral cortege
was on the way to the cemetery, the Lord Jesus approached, and touching
the bier He said to the young man, “Arise,” and at once “the dead sat up,
and began to speak” (

Luke 7:14, 15)!
“And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye
may believe” (

John 11:15).
How perfect are the ways of God! If Martha and Mary had had their wish
granted, not only would they (and Lazarus too) have been denied a far
greater blessing, but the disciples would have missed that which must have
strengthened their faith. And too, Christ would have been deprived of this
opportunity which allowed Him to give the mightiest display of His power
that He ever made prior to His own death; and the whole Church as well
would have been the loser! How this should show us both the wisdom and
goodness of God in thwarting our wishes, in order that His own infinitely
better will may be done.
This verse also teaches a most important lesson as to how the Lord
develops faith in His own. The hearts of the disciples were instructed and
illuminated gradually. There was no sudden and violent action made upon
them. They did not attain to their measure of grace all at once. Their eyes
were slowly opened to perceive who and what Christ was; it was by
repeated manifestations of Divine power and human compassion that they
came to recognize in Him a Messiah of a far higher order than what they
had been taught to expect.

John 2:11 illustrates the same principle:
“This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested.166
forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.” And God deals with us
in the same way. There is, in the development of our faith, first the blade,
then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. Compare the development of
Abraham’s faith through the increasingly severe trials through which God
caused him to pass.
“Nevertheless let us go unto him” (

John 11:15). Lazarus was dead, and
yet the Lord speaks of going to him. “O love, stronger than death! The
grave cannot separate Christ and His friends. Other friends accompany us
to the brink of the grave, and then they leave us. ‘Neither life nor death can
separate from the love of Christ’“ (Burkitt). Lazarus could not come to
Christ, but Christ would go to him.
“Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow-disciples,
Let us also go, that we may die with him” (

John
11:16).
No wonder that he said this to his fellow-disciples rather than to the Lord.
Very melancholy was his utterance. Thomas was a man who looked on the
dark side of things. Lazarus is dead, Christ is going to die, let us go and die
too! And this, after the Lord had said, “I go, that I may awaken him out of
sleep” (

John 11:11)! How difficult is it for man to enter into the
thoughts of God! Christ was going to Bethany to give life. Thomas speaks
only of dying. Evident is it that he had quite failed to understand what
Christ had said in

John 11:9. How much of unbelief there is even in a
believer! And yet we must not overlook the spirit of devotion which
Thomas’ words breathed: Thomas had rather die than be separated from
the Savior; Though he was lacking in intelligence, he was deeply attached
to the person of the Lord Jesus.
“Let us also go, that we may die with him” (

John 11:16).
“This was the language of a despairing and despondent mind, which
could see nothing but dark clouds in the picture. The very man who
afterwards could not believe that his Master had risen again, and
thought the news too good to be true, is just the one of the twelve
who thinks that if they go back to Judea they must all die! Things
such as these are deeply instructive, and are doubtless recorded for
our learning. They show us that the grace of God in conversion
does not so re-mold a man as to leave no trace of his natural bent
of character. The sanguine do not altogether cease to be sanguine,.167
nor the desponding to be despondent, when they pass from death to
life, and become true Christians. This shows us that we must make
large allowances for natural temperament in forming our estimate
of individual Christians. We must not expect all God’s children to
be exactly one and the same. Each tree in a forest has its own
peculiarities of shape and growth, and yet all at a distance look one
mass of leaf and verdure. Each member of Christ’s body has his
own distinct bias, and yet all in the main are led by one Spirit and
love one Lord. The two sisters Martha and Mary, the apostles Peter
and John and Thomas, were certainly very unlike one another in
many respects. But they all had one point in common: they loved
Christ and were His friends” (Bishop Ryle).
“Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four
days already” (

John 11:17).
Christ did not correct the error of Thomas, but calmly left the truth to do,
in due time, its own work. The reference here to the “four days” makes it
evident that in John 11 we have something more than a typical picture of
the spiritual condition of the nation of Israel. From a doctrinal viewpoint,
the condition of Lazarus in the grave accurately portrayed the state of the
natural man dead in trespasses and sins, a mass of corruption. It is true that
Lazarus was a Jew, but “as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of
man to man” (

Proverbs 27:19). The third chapter of Romans shows
plainly that the state of Israel was also the state of the Gentiles. The “day”
here, as usually in this Gospel, signifies (in its deeper meaning) a thousand
years. “Four days,” had man been in the place of death — alienation from
God — for there were exactly four thousand years from the fall of Adam
to the coming of Christ. God allowed the awful state of man to be
completely manifested before He sent Christ to this earth.
“Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days
already.” Note that this verse does not say “When Jesus came to Bethany,
he found that Lazarus had lain in the grave four days already,” but instead,
“When Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days
already.” The Holy Spirit had a reason for putting it so indefinitely, and
that reason we have sought to show above. When “Jesus came” to this
earth, “he,” fallen man, had been “in the grave” — the place of death —
“four days already” — four thousand years. O the minute and marvelous
accuracy of Scripture!.168
“Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off”
(

John 11:18).
There seems to be a double reason why this topographical reference is
made here. First, it explains why the “many Jews” had come to Bethany to
comfort Martha and Mary (

John 11:19). Second, it shows how very
near to Jerusalem the raising of Lazarus occurred. It was less than two
miles from the headquarters of Judaism, within walking distance, almost
within sight of the Temple. All room for excuse was thereby removed for
any ignorance in the leaders of the nation as to the identity of the person of
Christ. His last and greatest “sign” was given before many eye-witnesses
almost at the very doors of the Sanhedrin. Thus in this seemingly
unimportant detail the Holy Spirit has emphasized the deep guilt of those
who were most responsible for rejecting Christ.
“And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them
concerning their brother” (

John 11:19).
And poor comforters they must have made. They are in view again in

John 11:37. When they witnessed the tears of the Lord Jesus by the
grave-side of Lazarus, they said, “Could not this man, which opened the
eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?”
While no doubt they looked upon Christ as a miracle-worker, it is clear
they had no apprehension of the glory of His person — “this man” shows
that. Furthermore, it never seems to have entered their minds that He was
capable of raising the dead. How then could they “comfort” the sorrowing
sisters? It is impossible for an unbeliever to minister real comfort to a child
of God. God alone can bind up the brokenhearted. Only the Divine
Comforter can speak peace to the troubled soul, and not knowing Him, an
unsaved person is incapable of pointing another to the one Source of
consolation and rest.
“And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them
concerning their brother.” Mark here the over-ruling wisdom of God. By
waiting four days before raising Lazarus, a much greater number witnessed
his resurrection, and thus the miracle of Christ was more decisively
authenticated, for it would be given greater publicity. The Hand which
controls all things so shaped events that it was impossible for the Sanhedrin
to discredit this last great “sign” of Israel’s Messiah. Here then was a
further reason for the “therefore” in

John 11:6. God not only has a
good reason for each of His delays, but generally a manifold reason. Many.169
various ends are accomplished by each of His actions. Not only wicked but
utterly senseless are our criticisms of His ways.
“Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went
and met him” (

John 11:20).
This action was thoroughly characteristic of Martha. Even though the Lord
Jesus was not yet come into the village (

John 11:30), she advances to
meet Him. The verses that follow show us something of the condition of
her mind at this time. “But Mary sat still in the house.” “It is impossible not
to see the characteristic temperament of each sister coming out here.
Martha — active, stirring, busy, demonstrative — cannot wait, but runs
impulsively to meet Jesus. Mary — quiet, gentle, pensive, meditative, meek
— sits passively at home” (Bishop Ryle). What marks of truth are these
minor details! How evident that the same One who inspired Luke 10
moved John to record these little marks of character here!
“Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my
brother had not died” (

John 11:21).
There are some who think that Martha spoke in a spirit of petulancy, that
she was reproaching the Lord for not having responded more promptly to
the message sent Him while He was in Bethabara. But we think this is a
mistake. Bather do we regard Martha’s words as a sorrowful lament, the
telling out the grief of her heart. Martha’s words show plainly what had
been uppermost in the minds of the sisters during those trying four days —
note that Mary says almost the same thing when she met Christ (

John
11:32). There was a strange mingling of the natural and the spiritual, of
faith and unbelief in this statement of Martha’s. She had confidence in
Christ, yet she limited His power. She believed that her brother had not
died, no matter how low he were, had Christ only been present; yet the
thought never seems to have entered her mind that He was able to raise
Lazarus now that he was dead. “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief”
would well have suited her condition at that time. And how often it is
appropriate for us! Alas, that it should be so. The Christian is a strange
paradox; a dual personality indeed.
“Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother
had not died.” That which is reprehensible in this utterance of Martha is
that she was making distance a limitation of Christ’s power. And have not
we often been guilty of the same thing? Have not we often envied those.170
who were in Palestine during the time that the Word tabernacled among
men? But now, alas, He is absent; and Heaven seems so far away! But it is
not: it was not too far distant for Stephen to see right into it! But suppose
it were; what then? Do we not have the precious promise of the Savior,
“LO, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age”! But, says the
reader, Christ is bodily absent. True, and that was what had exercised
Martha. Yet it ought not; had not the Lord healed both the centurion’s
servant and the nobleman’s son at a distance by His word! He had; but
memory failed Martha in the hour of trial and suffering. Alas, that this is so
often the case with us.
“But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God
will give it thee” (

John 11:22).
It is this additional word which indicates that there was a different meaning
in Martha’s words of

John 11:21 from Mary’s in

John 11:32. Surely
Martha must have said what she did here without any deliberation. With
characteristic impulsiveness she most probably uttered the first thoughts
which came into her mind. And yet we can hardly conceive of one making
such a statement if she knew Christ as God the Son. The word she used for
“ask God”’ indicates that she did not recognize that Christ was the One in
whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. In New Testament
Greek there are two words for “ask.” The first, “aiteo,” signifies a familiar
asking. The second, “eroteo,” means a supplicatory petitioning. The one is
suited to express the favor asked of the Creator by the creature, the other
for a son’s asking of the Father. The former is never used of Christ with
the Father except here on the lips of Martha! It was a dragging down of
Christ to the level of the prophets. It was the inevitable outcome of having
sat so little at His feet listening to His words.
“Jesus said unto her, Thy brother shall rise again” (

John 11:23).
These were the first words of the Lord Jesus now that He had arrived at
the confines of Bethany. He was about to give
“beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise
for the spirit of heaviness” (

Isaiah 61:3);
but not yet did He specifically announce His gracious purpose. Instead, He
first gave the broad and general promise, “Thy brother shall rise again,”
without announcing when or how. It is the Lord’s way to draw out by
degrees His grace in the hearts of His own. He said enough to encourage.171
hope and strengthen faith, but not sufficient to exclude exercise of heart.
Light is given us upon the great mysteries of life gradually. “Here a little
and there a little.” Faith has to be disciplined, and knowledge is imparted
only as the heart is able to receive it.
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them
now” (

John 16:12)
still holds good. Unto the Corinthians Paul had to say,
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as
unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk,
and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither
yet now are ye able” (

1 Corinthians 3:1, 2).
Alas that we are so dull and make such slow progress in the things of God.
“Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the
resurrection at the last day” (

John 11:24).
Martha supposed that He was gently setting aside her implied request that
He would “ask of God,” and that He was pointing her forward to a future
and far-distant hope. Poor Martha! As yet she had learned little from the
Lord Jesus. She had nothing better than the common hope of Jews — the
resurrection of the dead “at the last day.” Does not this suggest another
reason why the Holy Spirit tells us in

John 11:18 that “Bethany was
nigh unto Jerusalem” — less than two miles away. Martha was still under
the influence of Judaism! But these words of hers also contain a warning
for us. Martha, like the woman at the well, understood not the nearness of
the benefit. In each case, half despondingly, they put it into the future. To
the Samaritan woman Christ said, “The hour cometh, and now is, when the
true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the
Father seeketh such to worship him.” To this she replied, “I know that
Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all
things.” To Martha He had said, “Thy brother shall rise again,” and she
replied: “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Each had only the vague, inoperative idea of a future and final good;
whereas He spoke to each of a present blessing. It is easier to believe
things which are in the far off (which occasion us no exercise of heart!)
than it is to appropriate now that which ministers comfort and strength for
the present trial. It makes less demand upon faith to believe that in a future.172
day we shall receive glorified bodies, than to rest now on the heartening
assurance that, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”
“Jesus saith unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life”
(

John 11:25).
This was like what the Lord said to the woman at the well. When she had,
by her word, postponed the blessing, He answered at once, “I am that
speaketh unto you”; so now He says to Martha, “I am the resurrection, and
the life.” Here is something of vital importance for our souls. It is not
simply that He corrected the vision of these women by turning them from
the distant future to the immediate present, but that He fixes their eyes
upon Himself! It is not future events but the Person of the Lord, ever
present with us, that we need most to be occupied with. Strength, blessing,
comfort, are imparted just so far as we are taken up with Christ Himself.
“I am the resurrection, and the life.”
“See how the Lord proceeds to instruct and to elevate her mind;
how graciously He bears with her passing fretfulness; how tenderly
He touches the still open wounds; how He leads her from grieving
over her brother to believe yet more fully in her Savior; how He
raises her from dwelling on Lazarus dead, to repose implicitly in
Him who is the Lord of life; how He diverts her from thinking only
of a remote and general resurrection to confide in Him who is even
at this present, the Resurrection and the Life” (Dr. G. Brown).
So too does He remove our ignorance, help our unbelief, and bear with our
peevishness. Wondrous condescension, matchless patience, fathomless
grace! And how the realization of these should humble us, and cause us to
blush for very shame! “Lord, increase our faith” in Thyself.
“I am the resurrection, and the life.” This is what He is, in His own peerless
Person. What He would here press upon Martha was that all power resided
in Himself. Soon she would witness a display of this, but in the meantime
the Lord would occupy her with what, or rather who He was in Himself.
Blessed, thrice blessed is it for the soul to lay hold of this sustaining and
satisfying truth. Infinitely better is it for us to be occupied with the Giver
than His gifts.
But why this order: the resurrection and the life? For at least a threefold
reason..173
First, this is the doctrinal order. In spiritual experience Christ is to us the
resurrection before He is the life. The sinner is dead in trespasses and sins,
in the grave of guilt, separated from God. He has his dwelling “among the
tombs” (

Mark 5:3). His first need is to be brought out of this awful
place, and this occurs at his regeneration. The new birth is a passing from
death unto life (

John 5:24); it is the being brought on to resurrection
ground. The same double thought of leaving the place of death and
receiving resurrection life is found again in verse 25: “The hour is coming,
and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they
that hear shall live.” Lazarus in the grave, raised to life by the word of
Christ, gives us a perfect illustration of God’s mighty work of grace in the
hearts of His elect.
Second, This was the dispensational order. The Old Testament saints were
all in the grave when He who is “The Life” came down to this earth.
Therefore it is in resurrection power that they will know the Christ of God.
But believers in Palestine at the time when the eternal Word tabernacled
among men knew Him as the Living One, God manifest in the flesh. And
yet it was not until after the Cross that they knew Him as such in the fullest
sense of the word. It was not until the day of His own resurrection that He
breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit” (

John
20:22). It is the life of a risen and never-dying Savior which the believer
now has as an inalienable and — eternal possession. Christ is the
resurrection because He is the life, and He is the Life because He is the
Resurrection.
Third, This will be the prophetic order. When the Lord Jesus leaves His
Father’s throne and descends into the air, His people will be found in two
great companies; by far the greater part will be (as to their bodies) asleep in
the grave; the others will be alive on the earth. But “flesh and blood”
cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The living saints will need to be
“changed,” just as much as the sleeping saints will need raising. Therefore
to the one Christ will be the resurrection, to the other the life. The two
companies of believers are clearly distinguished in

1 Thessalonians 4:16,
“The dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall
be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.”
The “changing” of the living believers is mentioned in

1 Corinthians
15:51. It is to this “change” of believers who have not entered the grave
that

Romans 8:11 refers: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus
from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall.174
also quicken (give life to) your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in
you.” Marvellously full were these words of Christ, “I am the resurrection
and the life.”
“He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”
(

John 11:25).
This was brought in to show that what Christ had just spoken of was
elective and not common to all men as such. He was referring to something
peculiar to His own: “he that believeth” limits the first part of the verse to
God’s elect. The resurrection of unbelievers, not to “life” but to the second
death, where, however they shall exist in conscious torment forever and
ever, is mentioned in other scriptures such as

Daniel 12:2;

John
5:29; Revelation 20, etc.
“He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” The
Greek here is very explicit and impressive. The verb, “though he were
dead,” is in the past tense, and with it is coupled a present participle, “yet
shall he live,” i.e. continue to live; but this, be it noted, is predicated of one
who believes. How this word of Christ tells of the indestructibility of faith
— its ever-living, never-dying character! Primarily, this was a message of
comfort to Martha; it went beyond what He had said to her in

John
11:23. First He said, “Thy brother shall rise again”; next He directed
attention to Himself as “the resurrection and the life”; now He intimates
that though Lazarus had died, yet, because he was a believer, he should
live. “Because I live, ye shall live also” (

John 14:19) we regard as a
parallel promise.
“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die”
(

John 11:26).
At the close of the previous verse Christ had referred to physical
resurrection, bodily life; here, He speaks of death in its ultimate sense.

Revelation 20:6 repeats the same blessed truth: “Blessed and holy is he
that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no
power.” At the close of the previous verse the Lord Jesus had spoken of
believers who had fallen asleep — they shall live. But here He speaks of
living believers — they shall never die. The Lord had made the same
assertion on a previous occasion: “If a man keep my saying, he shall never
see death.”.175
“Believest thou this?” (

John 11:26). Every Divine communication
challenges the heart to which it is made. We understand Christ’s “this” to
include all that He had said in

John 11:25, 26. “Believest thou this?”
Have you really laid hold of it? How little we grasp that which has been
presented to us. How little we enter into what we believe in a half-hearted
and general way! The sequel (

John 11:39) clearly shows that Martha
had not really “believed” what Christ here said to her — a most searching
warning for us. Much of what we thought we held is found to have made
no impression upon us when the hour of testing comes.
“She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ,
the Son of God, which should come into the world”
(

John 11:27).
Most of the commentators are quite astray here. They look upon this
utterance of Martha’s as an evidence that the mists of doubt had now
disappeared and that at last her faith had come out into the full sunlight.
But what we read of in

John 11:39 clearly refutes such a view, and
what is before us here must be interpreted in harmony with her final words
at the grave itself. How then are we to understand her utterance in

John
11:27? Pressed as she was by the searching question in the previous verse,
it seems to us that she fell back on a general answer, which affirmed her
belief that the Lord Jesus was the promised Messiah. Having confessed
Him as such, she at once went her way. She felt there was a depth to the
Lord’s words which she was quite incapable of fathoming. And here we
must stop.
Let the interested reader ponder the following questions to prepare him for
the next lesson: —
1. Why did Martha leave Christ and seek out her sister, verse 28?
2. What does verse 30 reveal to us about Christ?
3. Why did Jesus weep, verse 35?
4. What is the meaning of the “therefore,” verse 38?
5. Why were they bidden to remove the stone, verse 39?
6. What is the spiritual significance of verse 44?.176
CHAPTER 39
CHRIST RAISING LAZARUS (CONCLUDED)

JOHN 11:28-44
The following is submitted as an Analysis of the passage which is to be
before us: —
1. Mary goes to meet Jesus, verses 28-30, 32.
2. The Jews follow her, verse 31.
3. Jesus groaning and weeping, verses 33-35.
4. The comments of the Jews, verses 36-38.
5. Martha’s unbelief and Christ’s rebuke, verses 39, 40.
6. Jesus praying and praising, verses 41, 42.
7. The raising of Lazarus, verses 43, 44.
The central design of John’s Gospel is to present Christ to us as the Eternal
Word become flesh, the Lord of glory in the likeness of men. Two things
are made prominent throughout: His Divine dignity and His human
perfections. Wonderfully perfect is the blending of these in the God-man:
everything is there in Him to draw out our hearts in adoring love and
reverent worship. Here we are shown His mighty power, and also His
blessed tenderness. Here we behold not only His absolute authority, but
also His entire dependency. It is not only that we gaze upon one of the
Persons of the Holy Trinity, come down from heaven to earth, but also on
One who entered fully into the conditions and circumstances of men, sin
only excepted. Strikingly do these two lines of truth meet in John 11. The
very chapter which chronicles His mightiest “sign” reveals the principles by
which He walked — submission, dependence, obedience. Side by side with
the record of His omnipotent voice calling the dead to life again, do we
read of Him groaning and weeping. Absolutely unique is this wondrous
Person..177
The blending of Christ’s Divine glories and human perfections meet us at
every turn in this fourth Gospel. If John is the only one of the four
Evangelists who enters into the pre-incarnate dignities of Christ, showing
Him to us as the One who subsisted in the beginning, both being with God,
and God Himself: the Creator of all things; if John is the only one who
contemplates Him as the great “I am,” equal with the Father; he also brings
before us details concerning His humanity which are not to be met with in
the Synoptists. John is the only one who tells us of Christ being “wearied
with his journey” (

John 4:6), groaning as He beheld the tears of His
own, and thirsting as He hung upon the Cross. Christ became Man in the
fullest sense of the word, and nowhere do we behold His human
sympathies and perfections more blessedly displayed than in this very
Gospel which portrays Him as God manifest in flesh.
It is in John’s Gospel, pre-eminently, that we see the antitype of the veil,
which speaks so plainly of the Son of God incarnate.
“And thou shalt make a veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and
fine twined linen of cunning work” (

Exodus 26:31).
This order “blue, purple and scarlet” is repeated over twenty times in
Exodus, and is never varied. The blue and scarlet are never placed in
juxtaposition in any of the fabrics of the tabernacle. This of itself is
sufficient to show that the Holy Spirit intimates there is an important truth
here in connection with the person of Christ. The “blue” is the color of
heaven, and speaks of Christ as the Son of God. The “scarlet” is both the
color of sacrifice and human glory. The “purple” is a color produced by the
mixing together of blue and scarlet. Without the purple, the blue and the
scarlet would have presented too vivid a contrast to the eye; the purple
coming in between them shaded off the one extreme from the other.
Now the antitype of these colors is found in the incarnate Christ. He was
both God and man, and yet these two vastly dissimilar natures unite in one
perfect Person. The “purple,” then, coming in between the “blue” and the
“scarlet” tells of the perfect blending or union of His two natures. The
great marvel (as well as mystery) of His unique person is that in Him were
combined all the fulness of the Godhead with all the sinless feelings and
affections of man. And it is just this which is so beautifully brought out in
John’s Gospel, and nowhere more strikingly than in John 11. When the
sisters sent to Christ telling Him that their brother was sinking, instead of
hastening at once to him, He remained two days where He was. Did this.178
show that He was devoid of human feelings? No; His purpose was to
manifest the Divine glory. But mark the sequel. When He arrives at
Bethany, His heart is profoundly moved as He beholds the sorrowing
sisters. And who but the God-man would have shed tears by the grave of
Lazarus when He was on the very point of restoring the dead to life! Each
of the three colors of the veil are clearly seen. The “blue” in the Divine
power which raised the dead; the “scarlet” in the groans and tears. Now
behold the “purple.” When Lazarus came forth from the sepulcher he was
still bound with the grave-clothes. The spectators were so amazed, so
awed, so bewildered, they made no effort to remove them. “Loose him”
were the words which proceeded from Christ. And who but the God-man
would have been occupied with such a detail? We witness the same thing
again at the Cross; “It is finished” exhibits the “blue”; “I thirst,” the
“scarlet”; and the “purple” is evidenced in His tender thought for His
widowed mother, commending her to His beloved John!
In our previous lessons upon the first sections of John 11 we have seen the
Lord at Bethabara with His disciples, and then on the confines of Bethany,
whither Martha, Unbidden, with characteristic impatience rushed to meet
Him. We sought to weigh her utterances as she gave expression to the first
thoughts that entered her mind. We saw how that the responses made by
Christ were quite beyond her depth, and how that in answer to His
searching “Believest thou this?” she replied, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou
art the Christ the Son of God, which should come into the world.”
Immediately following this we read,
“And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her
sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee”
(

John 11:28).
In her impulsive hurry to meet the Lord (

John 11:20) Martha, for the
time, forgot all about her sister; but now she goes to call Mary. There is
nothing in the narrative to show that Christ had asked for Mary — if He
had, John would surely have told us so. Was it then a fabrication on
Martha’s part? We do not so regard it: rather do we think she concluded
that the profound words of Christ were more suited to her sister than
herself. When Christ said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that
believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever
liveth and believeth in me shall never die,” she felt that Mary must hear
this; she will be able to understand..179
“And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her
sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee”
(

John 11:28).
The cryptic utterances of Christ Martha considered as a “call” for the more
spiritual Mary. What a tribute this was to the discernment of the one whom
she had formerly criticized! She called her “secretly” so as not to attract
the attention of the many Jews who were with her in the house (

John
11:19). These Jews had come from Jerusalem and Martha knew that most
of the people there were antagonistic to the Savior.
“Christianity doth not bid us abate anything of our wariness and
honest policy, yea, it requires us to have no less the wisdom of the
serpent as the harmlessness of the dove” (R. Hall).
And, too, she probably felt that it was more fitting that Mary should enjoy
an interview with Christ in undisturbed privacy. Mark that Martha terms
Christ “Master” (the Teacher), not “Lord?’
“As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him”
(

John 11:29).
With characteristic quietness and calm Mary had remained seated in the
house, but now she hears that the One at whose feet she had loved to sit,
was here at hand, she rises and goes forth to meet Him at once, “quickly.”
The knowledge that He was “calling” her lent wings to her feet. She
needed not to tarry and inquire who was meant by “the Master” — she had
none other, and that one word was sufficient to identify the One who was
the Fairest among ten thousand to her soul.
“Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place
where Martha met him” (

John 11:30).
Very striking indeed is this. He was still in the same place where Martha
had talked with Him. In the interval she had returned to Bethany, entered
the house and spoken to her sister, and Mary had herself traveled the same
distance to meet Him in whom her soul delighted. And when she
completed the journey — how long a one it was we do not know — she
found her Beloved awaiting her. How this brings out the calmness of
Christ: there was no undue haste to perform the miracle! And how
blessedly it illustrates the fact that He never hides Himself from a seeking.180
soul. He would not disappoint this one who so valued His presence. If she
“arose quickly” to go to Him, He waited patiently for her arrival!
“The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted
her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out
followed, her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there”
(

John 11:31).
This too is striking. Man proposes but God disposes. Martha’s secrecy
came to nothing. God had purposed that the last great “sign” of Israel’s
Messiah should be given before many eye-witnesses. The Jews followed
Mary because they supposed she had gone to the grave to weep in private,
but He who doeth all things according to the counsel of His own will, drew
them there, that the miracle of the raising of Lazarus should be done in
public. Doubtless their intention was to “comfort” her, and for their
kindliness God would not let them be the losers. Has He not said,
“whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of
cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he
shall in no wise lose his reward” (

Matthew 10:42)?
Beautifully was that verified on this occasion.
The Jews who had journeyed from Jerusalem to Bethany had felt for
Martha and Mary in their heavy bereavement, and came to offer what
comfort they could. By so doing they reaped a rich and unexpected reward.
They beheld the greatest miracle which Christ ever wrought, and as the
result many believed on Him (

John 11:45).
“We need not doubt that these things were written for our learning.
To show sympathy and kindness to the sorrowful is good for our
souls. To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, to weep
with them that weep, to try and bear one another’s burdens and
lighten one another’s cares, — all of this will make no atonement
for sin and will not take us to Heaven. Yet it is healthy employment
for our hearts, and employment which we ought not to despise.
Few persons are aware that one secret of being miserable is to live
only for ourselves, and one secret of being happy is to try to make
others happy. In an age of peculiar selfishness and self-indulgence it
would be well that we took this to heart” (Bishop Ryle).
It is significant that these Jews did not leave the house when Martha left it!.181
“Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she
fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here,
my brother had not died” (

John 11:32).
This was the language of perplexity and grief. Like Martha, Mary was
thinking of what might have happened. How often we look back on the
past with an “if” in our minds! How often in our sore trials we lash
ourselves with an “if.” And small comfort does it bring! How often we
complain “it might have been” (

Mark 14:5). As Whittier says, “Of all
sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’“
Only too often these words express the inveterate sadness of one who is
swallowed up with sorrow. Ofttimes it issues from forgetfulness of the
Lord: He permitted it, so it must be for the best. It may not appear so to
our dim vision; but so it is. It was so with Martha and Mary, as they were
soon to behold.
“Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down
at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had
not died.” While this was the language of grief and perplexity, it certainly
was not a reproachful murmur, as her casting herself at the feet of Christ
clearly shows. Nor does Mary here add an apologetic reflection as had her
sister (

John 11:22). Her words had quite a different meaning from the
very similar language of Martha. We say very similar, for their utterances
were not identical, as a reference to the Greek will show. They each used
the same words, but the order of them varied, and in this may be seen what
was uppermost in each of their minds. The A.V. gives a literal rendering of
the original language of Martha (

John 11:21); but what Mary said was,
“Lord, if thou hadst been here, had not died my brother.” That which was
uppermost in the thoughts of Martha, was her brother’s death; that which
was discerned by Mary was that none could die in the presence of Christ.
Her words then were an expression of worship, as the casting of herself at
Christ’s feet was an act of adoring homage.
“Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down
at his feet.” This was ever her place. It is beautiful to observe that each
time the New Testament presents Mary to us, she is seen “at the feet of
Jesus” — expressive of her worshipful spirit. But there is no mere
repetition. In Luke 10, at Christ’s feet she owned Him as Prophet, hearing
His word (verse 39). Here in John 11 she approaches Christ as Priest —
that great High Priest that can be “touched with the feeling of our.182
infirmities,” who shares our sorrows, and ministers grace in every time of
need. In

John 12:3 Mary, at His feet acknowledged Him as “King” —
this will appear if we compare

Matthew 26:7, from which we learn that
she also anointed “the head” of the rejected King of the Jews!
“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping
which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled”
(

John 11:33).
The Greek word here for “groaned” is expressive of deep feeling,
sometimes of sorrow, more often of indignation. In this instance the Holy
Spirit has recorded the cause of Christ’s groaning — it was the sight of
Mary and her comforters weeping. He was here in the midst of a groaning
creation, which sighed and travailed over that which sin had brought in.
And this He felt acutely. The original suggests that He was distressed to
the extremest degree: moved to a holy indignation and sorrow at the
terrific brood which sin had borne. Agitated by a righteous detestation of
what evil had wrought in the world. “And was troubled” is, more literally,
“he troubled himself”; He caused Himself to be troubled by what made
others weep and wail. And how this “groaning” and “troubling of himself”
brings out the perfections of the incarnate Son! He would not raise Lazarus
until He had entered in spirit into the solemnity of the awfulnes of death.

Mark 8:12 intimates that the miracles which He performed cost Him
something. Plainer still is the testimony of

Matthew 8:17: “himself took
our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” — He felt the burden of sickness
before He removed it.
“And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord,
come and see” (

John 11:34).
What a mark of genuineness is this line in the picture! Who that was
inventing a fictitious story would have introduced such a detail in a scene
like this! But how thoroughly in keeping with everything else which the
Gospels record about Christ. There was no ostentation about Him. He
never used His Omniscience for the mere sake of display. He wished to be
invited to the sepulcher.
“Jesus wept” (

John 11:35).
The shortest verse in the Bible, yet what volumes it contains. The Son of
God weeping, and weeping on the very eve of raising the dead man! Who
can fathom it? Three times in the New Testament we read of the Lord.183
Jesus weeping: here, over Jerusalem, (

Luke 19:41), and in Gethsemane
(

Hebrews 5:7). Each time His tears were connected with the effects or
consequences of sin. By the grave-side of Lazarus these tears expressed the
fulness of the grief which His heart felt. They manifested the perfectness of
His love and the strength of His sympathy. He was the Man of sorrows and
“acquainted with grief.” Yet, here too was more than an expression of
human sympathy. Here were souls upon which rested the weight of the
dark shadow of death, and they were souls which He loved, and He felt it.
“Jesus wept”:
“The consciousness that He carried resurrection-virtue in Him, and
was about to fill the house at Bethany with the joy of restored life,
did not stay the current of natural affections. ‘Jesus wept.’ His
heart was still alive to the sorrow, as to the degradation of death.
His calmness throughout this exquisite scene was not indifference,
but elevation. His soul was in the sunshine of those deathless
regions which lay far away and beyond the tomb of Lazarus, but He
could visit that valley of tears, and weep with those that wept” (J.
G. Bellett).
“Then said the Jews, Behold how He loved him!” (

John 11:36).
How these tears demonstrated
“the profound sympathy of the heart of Jesus with us in all the
sorrows and trials through which we pass. Had those sisters for a
moment questioned the love of Jesus for them and His sympathy
with them in their sorrow, how they would be rebuked by these
groans and tears! ‘Jesus wept.’ What tender sympathy and grace!
And He is the same today. It is true the surroundings are different,
but His heart is the same: ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day,
and forever.’ He ‘wept.’ How we see the reality of His human
nature! Yes; it was a perfect human heart. He wept for the sorrow
and desolation which sin has brought into the world; and He
entered into it as no other could. Oh! what groans and tears! How
they tell out the heart of our precious Lord Jesus! He truly loved
these tried ones, and they proved it. So shall we if we rest in the
same tender, gracious, sympathizing Lord” (C.H.M.)..184
“And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the
eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have
died?” (

John 11:37).
This sounds very much like the language of men determined to believe
nothing good of our Lord, insistent on picking a hole or finding a fault, if
possible, in any thing that He did. Their words have a sarcastic ring about
them. Some have wondered why these carping critics did not mention the
raising of Jairus’ daughter or the widow’s son. But it should be
remembered that both of these miracles had been performed in Galilee.
Moreover, the healing of the blind man in Jerusalem was much more
recent. It is clear that they had no thought of help being available now that
Lazarus was dead, and so they openly reproach Christ for allowing him to
die. And men in their petulance and unbelief, especially at funerals, still ask
much the same questions: ‘Why should the Almighty have permitted this?’
They forget that
“He giveth not account of any of his matters” (

Job 33:13).
“What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter”
(

John 13:7)
is sufficient for faith.
“Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It
was a cave, and a stone lay upon it” (

John 11:38).
This time, as the “therefore” indicates, the groaning was occasioned by the
carping unbelief of those mentioned in the previous verse. Here it was a
matter of Christ “enduring the contradiction of sinners against himself”
(

Hebrews 12:3). It shows how He felt the antagonism of those who
knew Him not. It was not as a stoic that He passed through these scenes.
Everything that was contrary to His holy nature, moved Him deeply. How
blessed it is for us to remember this as we, who have the firstfruits of the
Spirit,
“groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption
of our body” (

Romans 8:23).
How comforting to know that our Redeemer felt the same thing which the
new nature within us feels; only felt it a thousand times more acutely. Not
for nothing was He termed “a man of sorrows” (

Isaiah 53:3). In us.185
there is ever a conflict; one nature feeding on, the other repelled by, the
things of this world. But with the Holy One of God there was nothing to
neutralize, nothing to modify, the anguish which His spirit felt from His
daily contact with evil and corruption. As Hebrews tells us, “He suffered
being tempted.” It is true there was nothing in Him to which Satan could
appeal, and therefore there was no possibility of Him yielding. But
nevertheless the temptation was a fearful reality. His holy nature recoiled
from the very presence of the Evil One, as His “get thee hence, Satan”
plainly intimates. His spotless purity was sickened by the vile solicitations
of the tempter. Yes, He suffered to a degree we do not and cannot.
Suffered not only from the temptation of Satan, but from the evil which
surrounded Him on every side. The “groaning” which the Holy Spirit has
here recorded gives us a glimpse of what must have gone on constantly in
the spirit of that blessed One so deeply “acquainted with grief.”
“Jesus said, Take ye away the stone” (

John 11:39).
“What majestic composure in the midst of this mighty emotion!”
(Stier).
Though weeping outwardly and groaning inwardly, the Lord Jesus was
complete master of Himself. He acts and speaks with quiet dignity. The
miracles of God avoid with the supremest propriety all that is superfluous.
So often in the mighty works of God we may observe, an economy of
Divine power. What man could do, he is required to do. We have little use
for the hackneyed saying that “God helps those who help themselves,” for
God very often helps those who are unable to help themselves. Yet, on the
other hand, it remains true that it is not God’s general way to do for us
what we are responsible and capable of doing for ourselves. God is pleased
to bless our use of the means which are at hand. If I am a farmer, I shall
harvest no crops unless I plow and sow and care for my fields. Just as in
the first miracle of this Gospel Christ ordered men to fill the jars with
water, so here He ordered men to roll away the stone.
“Jesus said, Take ye away the stone.” There is another lesson for us to
learn here. He might have commanded the stone to roll itself away, or He
might have bidden Lazarus to come forth through the impediment of the
stone. Instead, He bade the bystanders remove it. Christ modestly avoided
all pomp and parade and mingled the utmost simplicity with the most
amazing displays of power. What an example He thus set us to avoid all
ostentation!.186
“Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by
this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days”
(

John 11:39).
What a characteristic word was this from one who was “careful about
many things,” ever anxious about circumstances. Did Martha suppose that
Christ only desired to view the body? It would seem so. And yet how sad
is the unbelief which her utterance expressed. Lazarus’ own sister would
put an obstacle in the way of the manifestation of Christ’s glow! She
supposed it was useless to remove the stone. How solemnly this warns us
that natural affections can never rise to the thoughts of God, and that only
too frequently we are opposed to His workings even where it is for the
blessing of those whom we love most tenderly! How often has a husband, a
wife, a parent, sought to resist the Word or providences of God, as they
were operating in or on the object of their affection! Let us take to heart
this lamentable resistance of Martha.
“Jesus said unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest
believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (

John 11:40).
There is considerable difference of opinion as to what our Lord referred to
when He declared, “Said I not unto thee?” etc. Many suppose He was
reminding her of some word of His spoken just before, when she had met
Him alone, and which is not recorded in the context. This is mere
supposition, and an unlikely one at that. It seems more natural to regard it
as pointing back to the answer Christ had sent her from Bethabara:
“This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the
Son of God may be glorified thereby” (

John 11:4).
Others think it was as though He said, “Martha, thou art forgetting the
great doctrines of faith which I have ever taught thee. How often you have
heard Me say, All things are possible to him that believeth.” There may be
a measure of truth in this as well.
“Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe,
thou shouldest see the glory of God?” Profound word was this. “The glory
of God”! That which rejoices the soul when seen and known; that, without
which we must forever remain unsatisfied and unblest; that, in comparison
with which all sights are as nothing, — is “the glory of God.” This was
what Moses prayed to see: “I beseech thee, show me thy glory”
(

Exodus 33:18). The glory of God is the revelation of His excellencies,.187
the visible display of His invisible perfections. It was the glory of God
which Christ came here to make manifest, for He is the outshining of
God’s glory (

Hebrews 1:3). But the one special point to which our
Lord here referred, was His own glory as the Bringer of life out of death. It
was this which He came to reveal, both in His own person, by dying and
rising again, and in the works of His hands — here in the raising of
Lazarus. To remove the wages of death, to undo the work which sin had
wrought, to conquer him that had the power of death, to swallow up death
in victory — this was indeed a special manifestation of glory.
“God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath
shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory
of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (

2 Corinthians 4:6).
Now it is unbelief which hinders our seeing the glory of God. It is not our
unworthiness, our ignorance, nor our feebleness, that stand in the way, but
our unbelief, for there is far more of unbelief than faith in us, as well as in
Martha. Those searching words, “Said I not unto thee” apply to writer and
reader. He was reminding Martha of a word given her before, but which
had not been “mixed with faith.” Alas, how often His words to us have
fallen on unresponsive hearts. Mark the order of the two verbs here:
“Believe” comes before “see,” and compare our remarks on

John 6:69.
“Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was
laid” (

John 11:41).
As pointed out previously, two things stand out conspicuously all through
this chapter: the glory of Christ and the failure of men; His perfections and
their imperfections confront us at every, point. Christ had bidden the
bystanders “Take ye away the stone” — doubtless a heavy one (cf.

Matthew 27:60) which would require several men to move. But they
had not responded. They paused to listen to Martha’s objection. It was not
until He had replied to her, not until He had spoken of the glory of God
being seen, that they obeyed. “Then they took away the stone.” How slow
is man to obey the Word of God! What trifles are allowed to hinder!
“And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that
thou hast heard me” (

John 11:41).
Very beautiful is this. It manifested Christ as the dependent One. Perfectly
did He fulfill

Proverbs 3:5, 6:.188
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own
understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him.”
But more: it was the Son giving the Father the honor for the miracle which
was about to be performed. He directed attention away from Himself to
One in heaven. Well might He say, “learn of me; for I am meek and lowly
in heart” (

Matthew 11:29). And too, there is another thing here. In view
of His words in the next verse it seems clear that He also lifted up His eyes
for the sake of those standing around. His miracles had been
blasphemously attributed to Satan and Hell; He would here show the true
Source from which they proceeded — “Jesus lifted up his eyes.” Note also
His, “Father, I thank thee.” He began with this. Christ has left us a perfect
example, not only of prayerfulness but of thankfulness as well. We are
always more ready to ask than thank: but see

Philippians 4:6.
“And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that
thou hast heard me.” “We now reach a point of thrilling and
breathless interest. The stone had been removed from the mouth of
the cave. Our Lord stands before the open grave, and the crowd
stands around, awaiting anxiously to see what would happen next.
Nothing appears from the tomb. There is no sign of life at present;
but while all are eagerly looking and listening, our Lord addresses
His Father in Heaven in a most solemn manner, lifting up His eyes,
and speaking audibly to Him in the hearing of all the crowd. The
reason He explains in the next verse. Now, for the last time, about
to work His mightiest miracle, He once more makes a public
declaration that He did nothing separate from His Father in heaven,
and that in this and all His work there is a mysterious and intimate
union between Himself and the Father” (Bishop Ryle).
“And I knew that thou hearest me always” (

John 11:42).
What perfect confidence in the Father had this One here in servant form!
And what was the ground of His confidence? Has He not Himself told us in

John 8:29? — “He that sent me is with me; the Father hath not left me
alone; For I do always those things that please him”! The Lord Jesus never
had a thought which was out of harmony with the Father’s will, and never
did a thing which in the slightest degree deviated from His Father’s word.
He always did those things which pleased Him (

Psalm 16:8); therefore
did the Father always hear Him. What light this throws on our un-answered.189
prayers! There is an intimate relation between our conduct and the
response which we receive to our supplications:
“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me”
(

Psalm 66:18).
Equally clear is the New Testament.
“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his
commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight”
(

1 John 3:22).
Very searching is this. It is not what men term “legalism” but the Father
maintaining the demands of holiness. For God to answer the prayers of one
who had no concern for His glory and no respect to His commandments,
would be to place a premium upon sin.
“And I knew that thou hearest me always.” Very, very blessed is this.
Unspeakable comfort does it minister to the heart that rests upon it. Christ
did not cease to pray when He left this earth: He still prays, prays for us,
His people:
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come
unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for
them” (

Hebrews 7:25).
How much we owe to His intercession eternity will reveal — far, far more
than we now realize. Read through John 17 and note the different things
He has asked (and possibly, still asks) the Father for us. He asks that His
joy may be fulfilled in us (verse 13), that we may be kept from evil in the
world (verse 15), that we may be sanctified through the truth

John
4:17), that we may be one (21), that we may be made perfect in one (verse
23), that we may be with Him where He is (verse 24), that we may behold
His glory (verse 24). None of these things are yet ours in their fulness; but
how unspeakably blessed to know that the time is coming when all of them
will be! The Father hears Christ “always,” therefore these things must be
made good to us?
“But because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may
believe that thou hast sent me” (

John 11:43).
How this reminds us of Elijah on mount Carmel!.190
“Elijah the prophet came near and said, Lord God of Abraham,
Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in
Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these
things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may
know that thou art the Lord God” (

1 Kings 18:36, 37)!
This scripture supplies the key to the meaning of the Lord’s words beside
the tomb of Lazarus. Like Elijah’s, Christ’s mission was unto Israel, and
like Elijah, He here prayed that God would authenticate His mission. If the
Father had not sent Him, He would not have heard Him in anything; the
Father hearing Him here at the graveside of Lazarus was therefore a clear
proof and full evidence of His Divine mission.
“And when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice,
Lazarus, come forth” (

John 11:43).
This “loud voice” was also for the people’s sake, that all might hear.
Lazarus was addressed personally for, as it has been well remarked, had
Christ simply cried “come forth” Hades would have been emptied and
every tenant of the grave would have been raised from the dead. We have
here, in miniature, what will take place on the resurrection morn.
“The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout… and
the dead in Christ shall rise” (

1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
So, too, will it be when the wicked dead shall be resurrected:
“Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are
in the graves shall hear his voice” (

John 5:28).
It is striking to note that Christ here did nothing except to say, “Lazarus,
come forth.” It was the last great public witness to Christ as the incarnate
Word. And, too, it perfectly illustrated the means which God employs in
regeneration. Men are raised spiritually, pass from death unto life, by
means of the written Word, and by that alone. Providences, personal
testimonies, loss of loved ones, deeply as these sometimes may stir the
natural man, they never “quicken” a soul into newness of life. We are born
again,
“not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible by the word o/ God,
which liveth and abideth forever” (

1 Peter 1:23)..191
“Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth”
(

John 11:44).
At the sound of that Voice the king of terrors at once yielded up his lawful
captive, and the insatiable grave gave up its prey. Captivity was led captive
and Christ stood forth as the Conqueror of sin, death and Satan. There it
was demonstrated that He who was in the form of a Servant, nevertheless,
held in His own hand “the keys of death and hades.” Here was public proof
that the Lord Jesus had absolute power over the material world and over
the realm of spirits. At His bidding a soul that had left its earthly tenement
was called back from the unseen to dwell once more in the body. What a
demonstration was this that He who could work such astounding miracles
must be none other than one “who is over all, God blessed for ever”
(

Romans 9:5). Thank God for an all-mighty Savior. How can any sheep
of His ever perish when held in such a hand!
“And he that was dead came forth” (

John 11:44).
“This shows us what the energy, the utmost energy, of evil can do
over those who are the beloved of the Lord; but it also shows us
how the Lord Jesus sets it altogether aside in the energy and in the
strength of His own power. We have here the full result of Satan’s
power, and the perfect triumphing of the Lord over that power.
Death is the result of the power of Satan. By bringing in sin, he
brought in death: ‘the wages of sin’; this is the utmost of Satan’s
power. He brought in this at the commencement, he brought it in
by deceit; for ‘he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode
not in the truth.’ Such has he been ever since; he is called the old
Serpent and the Deceiver; and having deceived, he became the
murderer of the first Adam, and in one sense, of the last Adam. He
was and is a liar; that is his character, as exactly opposed to Christ,
who is the truth. In like manner all the variations of his character
are set in opposition to that of Christ. He is the destroyer, and
Christ is the Giver of life; He is the accuser of the brethren, and
Christ the Mediator for them; Christ the Truth of God, and Satan
the father of lies. In this character he is first brought before us. By
misrepresenting the truth and character of God, he became the
murderer of the souls of men, and brought in death — this was his
power. Christ came to destroy him that had the power of death,
that is, the Devil. The Son of God came to destroy the works of the.192
Devil by bringing souls from the power of Satan to the power of
the living God. This is what is so strikingly illustrated here in John
11” (Mr. J. N. Darby).
There are two ways in which the Lord Jesus has become the resurrection
and the life of His people: First, in purchasing their redemption from the
wages of sin, by paying Himself the full price which Divine justice
demanded for their trangressions. This He did by His own voluntary and
vicarious sufferings; being made a curse for us. Second, by making us one
with Himself who is the very life of all being: “he that is joined unto the
Lord is one spirit” (

1 Corinthians 6:17). It was this He prayed for in
John 17: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in
thee, that they also may be one in us” (verse 21). This is made good by the
Holy Spirit: “If any man be in Christ he is a new creation” (

2
Corinthians 5:17). The believer is “in Christ” not only by the eternal choice
of the Father (

Ephesians 1:4), not only by His being constituted our
federal Head (

1 Corinthians 15:22), but also by vital union. In this
double way then is Christ unto us “the resurrection and the life,” and thus
has He completely triumphed over him (the Devil) who had (no longer
“has”) the power of death. A most striking figure of this was Lazarus.
Dead, in the grave, his body already gone to corruption. At the almighty
word of Christ “he that was dead came forth.” The children of God are the
children of the resurrection. Where Christ is made the life of the soul, there
is the certainty of a resurrection to life eternal in Christ’s life: when His life
is communicated to us, we have that within us over which the power of
Satan is unable to prevail. Dimly, but beautifully, was this foreshadowed of
old in the case of Job. Afflict him Satan might, destroy his possessions he
was permitted to do, but touch his life he could not!
The picture presented here in John 11 is Divinely perfect. It was during the
bodily absence of Christ from Bethany that death exercised its power over
Lazarus. It is so with us now. What we have in John 11 is not merely an
individual, but a family — a family beloved of the Lord. How clearly this
prefigured the family of God now upon earth! While Christ was bodily
absent, the power of death was felt, and sorrow and grief came in. But
tears gave place to rejoicing. After abiding “two days” where He was,
Christ came to that afflicted family, and His very presence manifested the
power of life. So, when Christ returns for His people, it will be in this same
twofold character: as the Resurrection and the Life. Then will He put away
not only the grief of His people, but that which has caused it. In the.193
interval, His “tears” (before He raised Lazarus) assure us of His deep
sympathy!
“And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with
graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin”
(

John 11:44).
This line in the picture in nowise mars its accuracy, rather does it intensify
it. Whether we view the raising of Lazarus as a figure of the regeneration
of a sinner, or the glorification of the believer, the “graveclothes” here and
the removal of them, are equally significant. When a sinner is born again,
God’s work of grace in his soul is not perfected, rather has it just
commenced. The old nature still remains and the marks of the grave are
still upon him. There is much to impede the movements of the “new man,”
much from which he needs to be “loosed,” and which his spiritual
resurrection did not of itself effect. The language of such a soul was
expressed by the apostle Paul when he said,
“to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I
find not… For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but
I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my
mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my
members” (

Romans 7:18, 22, 23).
It was so here with Lazarus when the Lord called him from the tomb; he
did not leave the hampering graveclothes behind him, but came forth
“bound hand and foot.”
“Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go”
(

John 11:44).
How this brings out the moral glory of Christ. The fact that He had to ask
the bystanders to liberate the risen man shows that the spectators were all
overcome with amazement and awe. The Lord alone remained serene and
collected. That the Lord invited them to “loose him” (rather than, by a
miracle, cause the clothes to fall from him) points a beautiful lesson. In
gracious condescension the Lord of glory links human instruments with
Himself in the work which He is now doing in the world. Again and again
is this seen in John’s Gospel. He used the servants at the wedding-feast,
when He turned the water into wine. He fed the hungry multitude through
the hands of His disciples. He bade the spectators of this last public miracle
roll the stone away from the grave; and now He asks them to free Lazarus.194
from the graveclothes. And this is still His blessed way. He alone can speak
the word which quickens dead sinners; but tie permits us to carry that word
to them. What an inestimable privilege — an honor not given even to the
angels! O that we might esteem it more highly. There is no higher privilege
this side of Heaven than for us to be used of the Lord in rolling away
gravestones and removing graveclothes.
“Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.” But there is a yet
deeper and even more blessed truth taught us here. In its ultimate
application the raising of Lazarus points, as we have seen, to the full
manifestation of Christ as the resurrection and the life at the time when He
returns to His sorrowing “family.” Then will God’s wondrous work of
sovereign grace be perfected. No longer shall we be left in a groaning
creation, but removed to His own place on high. No longer shall we be
imprisoned in these tabernacles of clay, for we shall be “delivered from the
bondage of corruption” and enter into “the glorious liberty of the children
of God.” No more shall our face be “bound about with a napkin,” which
now causes us to see “through a glass darkly,” but in that glad day we shall
see “face to face” (

1 Corinthians 13:12). Then shall this corruptible put
on incorruption and mortality shall be “swallowed up of life” (

2
Corinthians 5:4). It is of this that the “Loose him” speaks. No more shall
we wear the habiliments of death, but then shall we rejoice in that One who
has forever set us free that we might walk with Him in newness of life.
Then, ah, then, shall we obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing
shall flee away.
“Loose him.” This was to satisfy the onlookers that they had not been
deceived by any optical delusion. With their own hands they were
permitted to handle his body. It is very striking to observe that in this final
“sign” of Christ, conclusive evidence was offered to three of their senses
— nostrils, eyes, and hands: the “stink” must have been apparent when the
stone was removed from the cave; they saw Lazarus come forth a living
man; they were suffered to trench and handle him. All possible deception
was therefore out of question.
“And let him go.” The spectators were not allowed to satisfy an idle
curiosity. Lazarus was to retire to the privacy of home. Those who had
witnessed the miracle of his resurrection, were not suffered to pry into the
secrets of the grave or ask him curious questions. “Let him go” was the
authoritative word of Christ, and there the curtain falls. And fitly so. When.195
the Lord Jesus leaves His Father’s throne on high and descends into the air,
we too shall go — go from these scenes of sin and suffering, go to be
“forever with the Lord.” Glorious prospect! Blessed climax! Blissful goal!
May our eyes be steadily fixed upon it, running with perseverance the race
set before us, looking off unto Him who “for the joy that was set before
him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right
hand of the throne of God” (

Hebrews 12:2).
The following questions are to prepare the student for the closing section
of John 11: —
1. How explain the different actions of the spectators, verses 45, 46?
2. What important truth is illustrated in verse 50?
3. What is meant by “this spake he not of himself,” verse 51?
4. What do verses 51, 52 teach about the Atonement?
5. “Gather together” in one what, verse 52?
6. Why did Jesus “walk no more openly among the Jews,” verse 54?
7. What is meant by “to purify themselves,” verse 55?.196
CHAPTER 40
CHRIST FEARED BY THE SANHEDRIN

JOHN 11:45-57
The following is submitted as an Analysis of the passage which is to be
before us: —
1. The effects of Christ’s great miracle, verses 45, 46.
2. The Council and their predicament, verses 47, 48.
3. Caiaphas and his counsel: verses 49, 50.
4. The Holy Spirit’s interpretation, verses 51, 52.
5. The Council’s decision and Christ’s response, verses 53, 54.
6. The Feast of the Passover and the purification of the Jews, verses
55, 56.
7. The commandment of the Council, verse 57.
In the closing section of John 11 we are shown the effects of the awe-inspiring
miracle recorded in the earlier part of the chapter. And we are at
once struck with what is here omitted. The Holy Spirit has told us of the
varying impressions made upon the “many Jews” who witnessed the raising
of Lazarus, but nothing whatever is said of the feelings of either Lazarus or
his sisters! Several reasons may be suggested for this. In the first place, the
Bible is not written to satisfy an idle curiosity. It would not have suited the
ways of God for us to know now what was retained by the memory of
Lazarus as he returned from the Unseen to this world. It is not God who
moves Spiritualists to pry into that which lies behind the veil. In the second
place, there is a beautiful delicacy in concealing from us the emotions of
Martha and Mary. We are not allowed to obtrude into the privacy of their
home after their loved one had been restored to them! In the third place,
may we not reverently say, the joy of the sisters was too great for
utterance. An impostor inventing this story would have made this item very
prominent, supposing.197
that it would furnish a suitable and appropriate climax to the narrative. But
the spiritual mind discerns that its very omission is an evidence of the
Divine perfections of this inspired record.
“Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the
things which Jesus did, believed on him” (

John 11:45).
Though John says nothing about the effects which the raising of Lazarus
had upon any of the members of the Bethany family, it is striking to
observe how the Holy Spirit here adheres to His unity of purpose. All
through this Gospel He has shown us the growing enmity of the “Jews,” an
enmity which was now so swiftly to culminate in the crucifixion of the
Lord of glory. So now, without stopping to draw any moral from the great
“sign” which the Messiah had just given, without so much as making a
single comment upon it He at once tells us how it was regarded by the
Jews! They, as ever, were divided about the Lord Jesus (cf.

John 7:43;
9:16; 10:19). A goodly number of those who had witnessed the coming
forth of Lazarus from the tomb “believed on him.” Without attempting to
analyze their faith, this we may safely say: their enmity was subdued, their
hostility was discarded, temporarily at least.
“Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the
things which Jesus did, believed on him.” “It is remarkable that our
Evangelist speaks of them as those who had come to Mary. Their
regard for her led them to have regard to Him whom she so deeply
loved. Perhaps too they had conversed with her about Him, and she
had borne testimony unto Him, and impressed them favorably
concerning Him, and prepared them for their faith in Him” (Dr.
John Brown).
The wording of this 45th verse is most significant. It does not say, “Then
many of the Jews came to Mary, who, seeing the things which Jesus did,
believed on ram, but “Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had
seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.” The two things are
linked together — the coming to Mary and the seeing the things which He
did — as explaining why they “believed on him.” It reminds us of what we
read of in

John 4:39, 41, 42:
“And many of the Samaritans believed on him for the saying of the
woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did…. And many
more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman,.198
Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard him
ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the
world.”
“But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them
what things Jesus had done” (

John 11:46).
“But”: ominous word is this. Solemn is the contrast now presented. Some
of those who had witnessed the miracle went at once to the Pharisees and
told them of what Christ had done. Most probably they were their spies.
Their motive in reporting to these inveterate enemies of our Lord cannot
be misunderstood; they went not to modify but to inflame their wrath.
What an example of incorrigible hardness of heart! Alas, what is man! Even
miracles were to some “a savor of death unto death”!
“Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council”
(

John 11:47).
The “chief priests” were, in all probability, Sadducees; we know that the
high priest was, see

Acts 5:17. The “Pharisees” were their theological
opponents. These two rival sects hated each other most bitterly, yet, in this
evil work of persecuting the Lord Jesus, they buried their differences, and
eagerly joined together in the common crime. The same thing is witnessed
in connection with Herod and Pilate:
“And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked
him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to
Pilate. And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends
together: for before they were at enmity between themselves”
(

Luke 23:11, 12)!
Each of these cases was a fulfillment of the prophecy which the Holy Spirit
had given through David long before:
“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel
together, against the Lord, and against His Christ” (

Psalm 2:2).
“Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and
said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles” (

John
11:47).
The “council” was deeply stirred by the evidence before them. Jesus had
clearly demonstrated that he was the Christ, and they ought forthwith to.199
have acknowledged Him. Instead of doing so they chided themselves for
their delay at not having apprehended and silenced Him before. “What do
we?” they asked. Why are we so dilatory? On a previous occasion, these
same men had sent officers to arrest Christ (

John 7:32), but instead of
doing so they returned to their masters saying, “Never man spake like this
man,” and then, in the providence of God, Nicodemus objected,
“Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he
doeth?” (

John 7:51),
and this broke up their conference. But now things had come to a head.
They did know what He was doing. “For this man doeth many miracles.”
This they could not deny. Very solemn was it. They owned the genuineness
of His miracles, yet were their consciences unmoved. How this exposes the
uselessness of much that is being done today. Some think they have
accomplished much if they demonstrate to the intellect the truth of Christ’s
miracles. We often wonder if such men really believe in the total depravity
of human nature. Souls are not brought into the presence of God, or saved,
by such means. The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. Nothing
but omnipotent and sovereign grace is of any avail for those who are lost.
And the only thing God uses to quicken the dead is His own Word. One
who has really passed from death unto life has no need for so-called
“Christian Evidences” to buttress his faith: one who is yet dead in
trespasses and sins has no capacity of heart to appreciate them. Preach the
Word, not argue and reason about the miracles of the Bible, is our
business!
“If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him”
(

John 11:48).
How these words reveal the awful enmity of their hearts: no matter what
others did, they were determined not to believe. In our first chapter on
John 11 we called attention to the link between this chapter and Luke 16.
In each instance there was a “Lazarus.” The very name, then, of the one
whom Christ had just raised at Bethany, should have served to remind
them of His warning words at the close of Luke 16. Well did Christ say of
them, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be
persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (verse 31). What a proof that
witnessing miracles will not bring dead sinners to the feet of Christ!.200
“We must never wonder if we see abounding unbelief in our own
times, and around our own homes. It may seem at first inexplicable
to us, how men cannot see the truth which seems so clear to
ourselves, and do not receive the Gospel which appears so worthy
of acceptation. But the plain truth is, that man’s unbelief is a far
more deeply-seated disease than is generally reckoned. It is proof
against the logic of facts, against reasoning, against moral suasion.
Nothing can melt it down but the grace of God. If we ourselves
believe, we can never be too thankful. But we must never count it a
strange thing, if we see many of our fellow men as hardened and
unbelieving as the Jews” (Bishop Ryle).
“If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him; and the
Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation”
(

John 11:48).
It was only to be expected that the resurrection of Lazarus would raise a
wave of popular excitement. Any stir among the common people the
leaders considered would be dangerous, especially at passover time, then
nigh at hand, when Jerusalem would be filled with crowds of Israelites,
ready to take fire from any spark which might fall among them (cf.

John
12:12, 13). The Council therefore deemed it wisest to concert measures at
once for repressing the nascent enthusiasm. Something must be done, but
what they hardly knew. They feared that a disturbance would bring Rome’s
heavy hand down upon them and lead to the loss of what national life still
remained to them. But their fears were not from any concern which they
had for God’s glory, nor were they even moved by patriotic instinct. It was
sordid self-interest. “They will take away our place,” the temple (Greek
“topos” used in

Acts 6:13, 14;

Acts 21:28, 29, where, plainly, the
temple is in view), which was the center and source of all their influence
and prover. They claimed for themselves what belonged to God. The holy
things were, in their eyes, their special property.
Palestine had been annexed as a province to the Roman Empire, and as was
customary with that people, they allowed those whom they conquered a
considerable measure of self-government. The Jews were permitted to
continue the temple services and to hold their ecclesiastical court. It was
those who were in position of power who here took the lead against Christ.
They imagined that if they continued to leave Him alone, His following
would increase, and the people set Him up as their King. It mattered not.201
that He had taught, “My kingdom is not of this world” (

18.36); it
mattered not that He retired when the people had desired to take Him by
force and make Him their King (

John 6:15). Enough that they supposed
His claims threatened to interfere with their schemes of worldly prosperity
and self-aggrandizement.
It is indeed striking to see the utter blindness of these men. They imagined
that if they stopped short the career of Christ they would protect
themselves from the Romans. But the very things they feared came to pass.
They crucified Christ. And what was the sequel? Less than forty years
afterward the Roman army did come, destroyed Jerusalem, burned the
temple and carried away the whole nation into captivity. A thoughtful
writer has remarked on this point: “The well-read Christian need hardly be
reminded of many like things in the history of Christ’s Church. The Roman
emperors persecuted the Christians in the first three centuries, and thought
it a positive duty not to let them alone. But the more they persecuted them
the more they increased. The blood of the martyrs became the seed of the
Church. So, too, the English Papists, in the days of Queen Mary
persecuted the Protestants and thought that truth was in danger if they left
them alone. But the more they burned our forefathers, the more they
confirmed men’s minds in steadfast attachment to the doctrines of the
Reformation. In short, the words of the second Psalm are continually
verified in this world. The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers
take counsel against the Lord. But ‘He that sitteth in the heavens shall
laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision.’ God can make the designs of
His enemies work together for the good of His people, and cause the wrath
of men to praise Him. In days of trouble, and rebuke, and blasphemy,
believers may rest patiently in the Lord. The very things that at one time
seem likely to hurt them, shall prove in the end to be for their gain.”
“And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same
year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is
expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that
the whole nation perish not” (

John 11:49, 50).
The Council was puzzled. They saw in Christ, as they thought, a menace to
their interests, but what course to follow they scarcely knew. Lip to this
point they had simply asked one another questions. Impatient at the
vacillations of the priests and Pharisees, the high priest brusquely and
contemptuously swept aside their deliberations with, “Ye know nothing at.202
all.” “The one point to keep before us is our own interests. Let that be
clearly understood. When we once ask, What is expedient for us, there can
be no doubt about the answer. This Man must die! Never mind about His
miracles, or His teachings, or the beauty of His character, His life is a
perpetual danger to our prerogatives. I vote for death.” As

John 11:53
shows us, the evil motion of Caiaphas was carried. The Council regarded it
as a brilliant solution to their difficulty. “If this popular Nazarene be slain
not only will suspicion be removed from us, but our loyalty to the Roman
Empire will be unmistakably established. The execution of Jesus will not
only show that we have no intention of revolting, but rather will the slaying
of this Man, who is seeking to establish an independent kingdom, plainly
evidence our desire and purpose to remain the faithful subjects of Caesar.
Thus our watchful zeal for the integrity of the Empire will not only
establish confidence but win the applause of the jealous power of Rome?
Caiaphas spoke as an unscrupulous politician who sacrifices righteousness
and truth for party interests. So too in accepting his policy, the Council
persuaded themselves that political prudence required the carrying out of
his counsel rather than that the Romans should be provoked.
“Our place” was what they considered. It was precisely what the Lord had
foretold:
“But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among
themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the
inheritance may be ours” (

Luke 20:14).
Favor from Caesar rather than from God, was what their hearts desired.
“Unlike Abraham they took riches from the king of Sodom instead
of blessings from the hands of Melchizedek. They chose the
patronage of Rome rather than know the resurrection-power of the
Son of God” (Mr. Bellett).
Solemn warning is this for us to be governed by higher principles than
“expediency.’’
“And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year,
he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation” (

John
11:51).
“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel
of the Lord that shall stand” (

Proverbs 19:21)..203
Strikingly was this illustrated here. Caiaphas was actuated by political
expediency: the Lord Jesus was to be a State victim. Little did he know of
the deep meaning of the words that he uttered, “It is expedient that one
man die for the people”: little did he realize that he had been moved of God
to utter a prophecy to the honor of Him whom he despised. What we have
in this verse and in the one following is the Holy Spirit’s parenthetical
explanation and amplification upon this saying of the high priest’s.
Altogether unconscious of the fact, Caiaphas had “prophesied,” and as

2 Peter 1:20, 21 tells us,
“No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation i.e.
human origination, for the prophecy came not at any time by the
will of man.”
The instance before us is closely parallel with the case of Balaam in the
O.T., who also “prophesied” against his will.
The subject is indeed a profound one, and one which human wisdom has
stumbled over in every age, nevertheless the teaching of Scripture is very
clear upon the point: all things, in the final analysis, are of God. Nowhere is
this more evident than in connection with the treatment which the Lord
Jesus received at the hands of wicked men. Referring to this very decision
of the Council (among other things)

Acts 4:26-28 tells us,
“The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered
together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth
against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both
Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of
Israel were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and
thy counsel determined before to be done.”
It had been decreed in the eternal counsels of the Godhead that Christ
should die, and die for Israel, and when Caiaphas advanced his proposal he
was but a link in the chain which brought that decree to pass. This was not
his intention, of course. His motive was evil only, and therein was he justly
guilty. What we have here is the antitype of that which had been
foreshadowed long centuries before. The brethren of Joseph by their cruel
counsels thought to defeat the purpose of God, who had made it known
that they should yet pay homage to their younger brother. Yet in delivering
him up to the Ishmaelites, though their intention was evil only,
nevertheless, they did but bring to pass the purpose of God. So Caiaphas.204
fulfilled the very counsel of God concerning Christ, which he meant to
bring to nothing, by prophesying that He should die for the people. Well
may Christ have said to Caiaphas, as Joseph had said to his brethren,
“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto
good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive”
(

Genesis 50:20)!
“And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year,
he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation” (

John
11:51).
What light this throws on the nature of Christ’s death! It brings out its
twofold aspect. From the human side it was a brutal murder for political
ends: Caiaphas and the priests slaying Him to avoid an unpopular tumult
that might threaten their prerogatives; Pilate consenting to His death to
avoid the unpopularity which might follow a refusal. But from the Divine
side, the death of Christ was a vicarious sacrifice for sinners. It was God
making the wrath of man to praise Him.
“The greatest crime ever done in the world is the greatest blessing
ever given to the world. Man’s sin works out the loftiest Divine
purpose, even as the coral insects blindly building up the reef that
keeps back the waters or, as the sea in its wild, impotent rage,
seeking to overwhelm the land, only throws upon the beach a
barrier that confines its waves and curbs its fury” (Dr. MacLaren).
“And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather
together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad”
(

John 11:52).
As the previous verse gives us the Holy Spirit’s explanation of the words
of Caiaphas, this one contains His amplification: as verse 51 informs us of
the nature of Christ’s death, verse 52 tells us of the power and scope of it.
The great Sacrifice was not offered to God at random. The redemption-price
which was paid at the Cross was not offered without definite design.
Christ died not simply to make salvation possible, but to make it certain.
Nowhere in Scripture is there a more emphatic and explicit statement
concerning the objects for which the Atonement was made. No excuse
whatever is there for the vague (we should say, unscriptural) views, now
so sadly prevalent in Christendom, concerning the ones for whom Christ
died. To say that He died for the human race is not only to fly in the face of.205
this plain scripture, but it is grossly dishonoring to the sacrifice of Christ. A
large portion of the human race die un-saved, and if Christ died for them,
then was His death largely in vain. This means that the greatest of all the
works of God is comparatively a failure. How horrible! What a reflection
upon the Divine character! Surely men do not stop to examine whither
their premises lead them. But how blessed to turn away from man’s
perversions to the Truth itself. Scripture tells us that Christ “shall see of the
travail of his soul and be satisfied.” No sophistry can evade the fact that
these words give positive assurance that every one for whom Christ died
will, most certainly, be saved.
Christ died for sinners. But everything turns on the significance of the
preposition. What is meant by “Christ died for sinners”? To answer that
Christ died in order to make it possible for God to righteously receive
sinners who come to Him through Christ, is only saying what many a
Socinian has affirmed. The testing of a man’s orthodoxy on this vital truth
of the Atonement requires something far more definite than this. The
saving efficacy of the Atonement lies in the vicarious nature of Christ’s
death, in His representing certain persons, in His bearing their sins, in His
being made a curse for them, in His purchasing them, spirit and soul and
body. It will not do to evade this by saying, “There is such a fulness in the
satisfaction of Christ, as is sufficient for the salvation of the whole world,
were the whole world to believe in Him.” Scripture always ascribes the
salvation of a sinner, not to any abstract “sufficiency,” but to the vicarious
nature, the substitutional character of the death of Christ. The Atonement,
therefore, is in no sense sufficient for a man, unless the Lord Jesus died for
that man:
“For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by
our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us” (

1 Thessalonians 5:9,
10).
“If the nature of this ‘sufficiency’ for all men be sifted, it will
appear to be nothing more than a conditional ‘sufficiency,’ such as
the Arminians attribute to their universal redemption — the
condition is: were the whole world to believe on Him. The
condition, however, is not so easily performed. Many professors
speak of faith in Christ as comparatively an easy matter, as though
it were within the sinner’s power; but the Scriptures teach a
different thing. They represent men by nature as spiritually bound.206
with chains, shut up in darkness, in a prison-house. So then all their
boasted ‘sufficiency’ of the Atonement is only an empty offer of
salvation on certain terms and conditions; and such an Atonement is
much too weak to meet the desperate case of a lost sinner” (Wm.
Rushton).
Whenever the Holy Scriptures speak of the sufficiency of redemption, they
always place it in the certain efficacy of redemption. The Atonement of
Christ is sufficient because it is absolutely efficacious, and because it
effects the salvation of all for whom it was made. Its sufficiency lies not in
affording man a possibility of salvation, but in accomplishing their salvation
with invincible power. Hence the Word of God never represents the
sufficency of the Atonement as wider than the design of the Atonement.
How different is the salvation of God from the ideas now popularly
entertained of it!
“As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy
prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water” (

Zechariah 9:11).
Christ, by His death paid the ransom, and made sin’s captives His own. He
has a legal right to all of the persons for whom He paid that ransom price,
and therefore with God’s own right arm they are brought forth.
For whom did Christ die?
“For the transgression of my people was he stricken”
(

Isaiah 53:8).
“Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from
their sins” (

Matthew 1:21).
“The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,
and to give his life a ransom for many” (

Matthew 20:28).
“The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (

John 10:11).
“Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it”
(

Ephesians 5:25).
“Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all
iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people” (

Titus 2:14).
“To make propitiation for the sins of the people”
(

Hebrews 2:17)..207
Here are seven passages which gave a clear and simple answer to our
question, and their testimony, both singly and collectively, declare plainly
that the death of Christ was not an atonement for sin abstractedly, nor a
mere expression of Divine displeasure against iniquity, nor an indefinite
satisfaction of Divine justice, but instead, a ransom-price paid for the
eternal redemption of a certain number of sinners, and a plenary
satisfaction for their particular sins. It is the glory of redemption that it
does not merely render God placable and man pardonable, but that it has
reconciled sinners to God, put away their sins, and forever perfected His
set-apart ones.
“He prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation” (verse 51). The
nature of Christ’s death is here intimated in the word “for”: it was in the
stead of others. Christ died for “that nation,” (i.e. that “holy nation,”

1
Peter 2:9). Mark here the striking accuracy of Scripture. Caiaphas did not
say that Christ should die for “this nation,” (namely, the Jewish nation); but
for “that nation.” Isaiah 53 will be the confession of that “holy nation,” as
the beginning of Isaiah 54 plainly shows. Then shall it be said,
“Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land
forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I
may be glorified” (

Isaiah 60:21).
“And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather
together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad”
(

John 11:52).
Here the Holy Spirit tells us that the scope of Christ’s death also includes
God’s elect from among the Gentiles. As the Savior had announced on a
former occasion,
“I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which
are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my
voice;, and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd” (

John
10:15, 16).
Here then are the “other sheep,” namely, God’s elect scattered throughout
the world. They are here called “the children of God” because they were
such in His eternal purpose. Just as Christ said “other sheep I have,” and
just as God said to the Apostle, “I have much people in this city” (

Acts
18:10), so in the mind of God these were children, though “scattered
abroad,” when Christ died. There is a most striking correspond-ency.208
between

John 11:51, 52 and

1 John 2:2: the one explains the other.
Note carefully the threefold parallelism between them. Christ died with a
definite end in view, and the Father had an express purpose before Him in
giving up His Son to death. That end and that purpose was that “Israel”
should be redeemed, and that “the children of God,” scattered abroad,
should be gathered together in one — not “one body,” for the Church is
nowhere contemplated (corporeately) in John’s writings; but one family. It
shall yet be fully demonstrated that Christ did not die in vain. The prayer of
our great High Priest will be fully answered:
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall
believe on me through their word; that they all may be one”
(

John 17:20,21).
Then shall He “see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied” (

Isaiah
53:11).
“Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him
to death” (

John 11:53).
What a fearful climax was this to all that had gone before! Again and again
we have noted the incorrigible wickedness of the Jews. Not only was He
not “received” by His own, but they cast Him out. Not only was He
despised and rejected by men, but they thirsted for His blood. The religious
head of the Nation, the high priest, moved for His death, and the Council
passed and ratified his motion. Nothing now remained but the actual
execution of their awful decision. Their only consideration now was how
and when His death could best be accomplished without creating a tumult
among the people. No doubt they concluded that the raising of Lazarus
would result in a considerable increase in the number of the Lord’s
followers, hence they deemed it wise to use caution in carrying out their
murderous plan.
“Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews”
(

John 11:54).
How quietly, with what an entire absence of parade, does the Holy Spirit
introduce some of the most striking points in Scripture! How much there is
in this word “therefore.” It shows plainly that God would have us meditate
on every jot and tittle of His matchless Word. The force of the “therefore”
here is this: the Lord Jesus knew of the decision at which the Council had
arrived. He knew they had decreed that He should die. It is another of the.209
many inconspicuous proofs of His Deity, which are scattered throughout
this Gospel. It witnessed to His omniscience. The Holy Spirit has shown us
that He knew what took place in that Council, for He has recorded the
very words that were uttered there. And now Christ shows us by His
action here that He also knew. We may add that the word for “no more”
signifies “not yet,” or “no more at present”; “openly” signifies “publicly.”
“Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went
thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called
Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples” (

11:54).
Though near at hand, His “hour” had not yet come: Christ therefore retired
into a place about which nothing is now known, there to enjoy quiet
fellowship with His disciples.
“Like the former cases of retirement, this place is significant.
Ephraim means ‘fruitlessness’: it is the name given to the tribes in
apostasy, in the Prophets, forecasting thus what was in God’s heart
about them, even though they were in rebellion and ruin. Can
anything exceed the grace of God, or anything but man’s depravity
and obduracy bring it into action and display, and be a fitting cause
and occasion for all its riches and wonders! Ah they who have been
met by God in that grace, are yet to meet Him in the glory of it, to
know as all through the history of their sad failures they have been
known. Thus we have in chapter ten the Church gathered to the
Son of God, here (anticipatively) Israel; but He must die for this”
(Malachi Taylor).
“And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of
the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify
themselves” (

John 11:55).
Here was man’s religiousness, punctilious about ceremonial ablutions, but
with no heart for inward purity. The very ones who were so careful about
ordinances, were, in a few days, willing to shed innocent blood! What a
commentary upon human nature! According to the Mosaic law no Israelite
who was ceremonially, defiled could keep the passover at the regular time,
though he was allowed to keep it one month later (

Numbers 9:10, 11).
It was to avoid this delay, that many Jews here came up to Jerusalem
before the passover that they might be “purified,” and hence entitled to
keep it in the month Nisan..210
“Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they
stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the
feast?” (

John 11:56).
Two things gave rise to this questioning among those who had come up to
Jerusalem from all sections of Palestine. Each of the two previous years
Christ had been present at the Feast. In

John 2:13 we read, “And the
Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” It was at
this season the Lord had manifested Himself as the Vindicator of the honor
of His Father’s House, and a deep impression had been made on those who
had witnessed it. A year later, during the course of the Feast He had fed
the hungry multitude on the Mount. This so stirred the people that they
wanted, by force, to make Him their king (

John 6:14, 15). But now the
leaders of the natron were incensed against Him. They had decreed that
Jesus must die, and their decree was now public knowledge. Hence the one
topic of interest among the crowds of Jews in Jerusalem was, would this
miracle worker who claimed to be not only the Messiah but the Son of
God, enter the danger zone, or would He be afraid to expose Himself?
“Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a
commandment, that, if any man know where he were, he should
show it that they might take him” (

John 11:57).
Behind the edict of the Council we may discover the enmity of the Serpent
working against the woman’s Seed. This verse supplies the climax to the
chapter, showing the full effect of the Divine testimony which had been
borne in the raising of Lazarus. The resurrection-power of the Son of God
had brought to a head the hatred of him who had the power of death. It is
true that Christ had raised the dead on other occasions, but here He had
given a public display of His mighty power on the very outskirts of
Jerusalem, and this was an open affront to Satan and his earthly
instruments. The glory of the Lord Jesus shone out so brightly that it
seriously threatened the dominion of “the prince of this world,” and
consequently there was no longer a concealment of the resolution which he
had moved the religious world to make — Jesus must die. But how blessed
to know that the very enmity of the Devil himself is overruled by God to
the outworking of His eternal purpose!
1. In whose house was the “supper” made, verse 2?.211
Let the student give careful attention to the following questions on our
next section,

John 12:1-11 —
2. What do verses 2 and 3 hint at about the eternal state?
3. What is intimated by Mary wiping Christ’s feet with her “hair,” verse
3?
4. What spiritual truth is suggested by the last clause of verse 3?
5. How many contrasts are there here between Mary and Judas?
6. What blessed truth is suggested by “Let her alone,” verse 7?
7. Why were the “chief priests” so anxious to get rid of Lazarus, verse
10?.212
CHAPTER 41
CHRIST ANOINTED AT BETHANY

JOHN 12:1-11
Below is an Analysis of the passage which we are about to study: —
1. Jesus at Bethany again, verse 1.
2. The supper, verse 2.
3. Mary’s devotion, verse 3.
4. Judas’ criticism, verses 4-6.
5. Christ’s vindication of Mary, verses 7, 8.
6. The curiosity of the crowd, verse 9.
7. The enmity of the priests, verses 10, 11.
What is recorded in John 12 occurred during the last week before our
Lord’s death. In it are gathered up what men would term the “results” of
His public ministry. For three years the unvarying and manifold perfections
of His blessed Person had been manifested both in public and in private.
Two things are here emphasized: there was a deepening appreciation on
the part of His own; but a steady hardening of unbelief and increasing
hostility in His enemies. Three most striking incidents in the chapter
illustrate the former: first, Christ is seen in the midst of a circle of His most
intimate friends in whose love He was permanently embalmed; second, we
behold how that a striking, if transient, effect, had been made on the
popular mind: the multitude hailed Him as “king”; third, a hint is given of
the wider influence He was yet to wield, even then at work, beyond the
bounds of Judaism: illustrated by the “Greeks” coming and saying,
“We would see Jesus.” But on the other hand, we also behold in
this same chapter the workings of that awful enmity which would
not be appeased until He had been put to death. The hatred of
Christ’s enemies had even penetrated the inner circle of His chosen
apostles, for one of them was so utterly lacking in appreciation of.213
His person that he openly expressed his resentment against the
attribute of love which Mary paid to his Master. And at the close of
the first section of this chapter we are told, “But the chief priests
consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death.” “In this hour
there meet a ripeness of love which Jesus has won for Himself in
the hearts of men, and a maturity of alienation which forebodes that
His end cannot be far distant” (Dr. Dods).
In a most remarkable way and in numerous details John 12 abounds in
contrasts. What could be more exquisitely blessed than its opening scene:
Love preparing a feast for its Beloved; Martha serving, now in His
presence; Lazarus seated with perfect composure and in joyous fellowship
with the One who had called him out of the grave; Mary freely pouring out
her affection by anointing with costly spikenard Him at whose feet she had
learned so much. And yet what can be more solemn than the death-shades
which fall across this very scene: the Lord Himself saying,
“Against the day of my burying hath she kept this,’ so soon to be
followed by those heart-moving words, Now is my soul troubled”
(

John 12:27).
His own death was now in full view, present, no doubt, to His heart as He
had walked with Mary to the tomb of Lazarus. As we have seen in John
11, He felt deeply the groaning and travailing of that creation which once
had come so fair from His own hands. It was sin which had brought in
desolation and death, and soon He was to be “made sin” and endure in
infinite depths of anguish the judgment of God which was due it. He was
about to yield Himself up to death for the glory of God (

John 12:27,
28), for only in the Cross could be laid that foundation for the
accomplishment of God’s eternal counsels.
Christ had ever been the Object of the Father’s complacency.
“When he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by
him, as one brought up with him and I was daily his delight”
(

Proverbs 8:29, 30).
So too at the beginning of His public ministry, the Father had declared,
“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”
(

Matthew 3:17)..214
But now He was about to give the Father new ground for delight:
“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life,
that I might take it again” (

John 10:17).
Here then was the deepest character of His glory, and the Father saw to it
that a fitting testimony should be borne to this very fact. His grace
prepared one to enter, in some measure at least, into what was on the eve
of transpiring. Mary’s heart anticipated what lay deepest in His, even
before it found expression in words (

John 13:31). She not only knew
that He would die, but she apprehended the infinite preciousness and value
of that death. And how more fittingly could she have expressed this than by
anointing His body “to the burying” (

Mark 14:8)!
The link between John 11 and 12 is very precious. There we have, in
figure, one of God’s elect passing from death unto life; here we are shown
that into which the new birth introduces us: Lazarus sitting at meat with
the Lord Jesus.
“But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who some times were far off, are
made nigh by the blood of Christ” (

Ephesians 2:13).
This is the marvel of grace. Redemption brings the sinner into the presence
of the Lord, not as a trembling culprit, but as one who is at perfect ease in
that Presence, yea, as a joyful worshipper. It is this which Lazarus sitting at
“the table” with Christ so sweetly speaks of. And yet the opening scene of
John 12 looks forward to that which is still more blessed.
The opening verses of John 12 give us the sequel to what is central in the
preceding chapter. Here we are upon resurrection ground. That which is
foreshadowed in this happy gathering at Bethany is what awaits believers in
the Glory. It is that which shall follow the complete manifestation of Christ
as the resurrection and the life. Three aspects of our glorified state and our
future activities in Heaven are here made known. First, in Lazarus seated at
the table with Christ we learn of both our future position and portion. To
be where Christ is, will be the place we shall occupy: “That where I am,
there ye may be also” (

John 14:3). To share with Christ His inherited
reward will be our portion. And how blessedly this comes out here: “They
made him a supper… Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with
him.” This will find its realization when Christ shall say,.215
“The glory which thou gavest me I have given them”
(

John 17:22)!
“And Martha served.” As to our future occupation in the endless ages yet
to come Scripture says very little, yet this we do know, “his servants shall
serve him” (

Revelation 22:4). Finally, in Mary’s loving devotion, we
behold the unstinted worship which we shall then render unto Him who
sought and bought and brought us to Himself.
“Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where
Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead”
(

John 12:1).
This verse has long presented a difficulty to the commentators. A few have
demurred, but by far the greater number in each age have considered that
Matthew (

Matthew 26) and Mark (

Mark 14) record the same
incident that is found in

John 12. But both Matthew and Mark
introduce the anointing at Bethany by a brief mention of that which
occurred only “two days” before the passover; whereas John tells us it
transpired “six days” before the passover (see

Matthew 26:2;

Mark
14:1;

John 12:1). But the difficulty is self created, and there is no need
whatever to imagine, as a few have done, that Christ was anointed twice at
Bethany, with costly ointment, by a different woman during His last week.
The fact is, that, excepting the order of events, there is nothing whatever in
the Synoptists which in any wise conflicts with what John tells us. How
could there be when the Holy Spirit inspired every word in each narrative?
Both Matthew and Mark begin by telling us of the decision of the
Sanhedrin to have Christ put to death, and then follows the account of His
anointing at Bethany. But it is to be carefully noted that after recording the
decision of the Council “two days” before the passover, Matthew does not
use his characteristic term and say “Then when Jesus was in Bethany, he
was anointed”; nor does Mark employ his customary word and say, “And
immediately” or “straightway Jesus was anointed.” But how are we to
explain Matthew’s and Mark’s description of the “anointing” out of its
chronological order?
We believe the answer is as follows: The conspiracy of Israel’s leaders to
seize the Lord Jesus is followed by a retrospective glance at the
“anointing” because what happened at Bethany provided them with an
instrument which thus enabled them to carry out their vile desires. The plot
of the priests was successful through the instrumentality of Judas, and that.216
which followed Mary’s expression of love shows us what immediately
occasioned the treachery of the betrayer. Judas protested against Mary’s
extravagance, and the Lord rebuked him, and it was immediately afterward
that the traitor went and made his awful pact with the priests. Both
Matthew and Mark are very definite on this point. The one tells us that
immediately following the Lord’s reply
“Then one of the twelve called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief
priests” (

Matthew 26:14);
Mark linking together without a break, the rebuke of Christ and the
betrayer’s act by the word “and” (

Mark 14:10). John mentions the
“supper” at Bethany in its historical order, Matthew and Mark treat of the
events rising out of the supper, bringing it in to show us that the rebuke of
Christ rankled in the mind of Judas and caused him to go at once and
bargain with the priests.
But how are we to explain the discrepancies in the different accounts? We
answer, There are none. Variations there are, but nothing is inconsistent.
The one supplements the other, not contradicts. When John describes any
event recorded in the Synoptists, he rarely repeats all the circumstances
and details specified by his predecessors, rather does he dwell upon other
features not mentioned by them. Much has been made of the fact that both
Matthew and Mark tell us that the anointing took place in the house of
Simon the leper, whereas John is silent on the point. To this it is sufficient
to reply, the fact that the supper was in Simon’s house explains why Jesus
tells us Lazarus “sat at the table with him”: if the supper had been in
Lazarus’ house, such a notice would have been superfluous. Admire then
the silent harmony of the Gospel narratives.
f14
“Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany”
(

John 12:1).
The R.V. more correctly renders this, “Jesus therefore six days before the
passover came to Bethany.” But what is the force of the “therefore”? with
what in the context is it connected? We believe the answer is found in

John 11:51: Caiaphas “prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation”
etc. — “Jesus therefore six days before the passover came to Bethany.” He
was the true paschal Lamb that was to be sacrificed for His people,
therefore did He come to Bethany, which was within easy walking distance
of Jerusalem, where He was to be slain. It is very striking to note that the.217
very ones who thirsted so greedily for His blood said, “Not on the feast
day, lest there be an uproar among the people” (

Matthew 26:5 —
repeated by

Mark 14:2). But God’s counsels could not be thwarted,
and at the very hour the lambs were being slain, the true passover was
sacrificed. But why “six days before the passover”? Perhaps God designed
that in this interval man should fully show forth what he was.
“Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany.” The memories
of Bethany cannot fail to touch a chord in the heart of any one who loves
the Lord Jesus. His blood-bought people delight to dwell upon anything
which is associated with His blessed name. But what makes Bethany so
attractive is that He seemed to find in the little company there a resting-place
in His toilsome path. It is blessed to know that there was one oasis in
the desert, one little spot where He who “endured the contradiction of
sinners against himself” could retire from the hatred and antagonism of His
enemies. There was one sheltered nook where He could find those who,
although they knew but little, were truly attracted to Him. It was to this
“Elim” in the wilderness (

Exodus 15:27) that the Savior now turned on
His last journey to Jerusalem.
“Where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the
dead.” This is very blessed as an introduction to what follows. The Lord
Jesus interpreted the devotion of Mary as “against the day of my burying
hath she kept this” (

John 12:7). The Father ordered it that His beloved
Son should be “anointed” here in this home at Bethany in the presence of
Lazarus whom Christ had raised from the dead: it attested the power of
His own resurrection!
“There they made him a supper” (

John 12:2).
This evening meal took place not at the home of Martha, but, as we learn
from the other Evangelists, in the house of Simon, who also dwelt at
Bethany. He is called “the leper” (as Matthew is still named the “tax-gatherer”
after Christ had called him) in remembrance of that fearful
disease from which the Lord, most probably, had healed him. It is quite
likely that he was a relative or an intimate friend of Martha and Mary, for
the elder sister is here seen ministering to his guests as her own,
superintending the entertainment, doing the honors, for so the original
word may here imply — compare the conduct of the mother of Jesus at the
marriage in Cana: John 2. It is blessed to observe that this “supper” was
made for Christ, not in honor of Lazarus!.218
“There they made him a supper.” Note the use of the plural pronoun.
Though this supper was held in the house of “Simon the leper” it is evident
that Martha and Mary had no small part in the arranging of it. This,
together with the whole context, leads us to the conclusion that a feast was
here made as an expression of deep gratitude and praise for the raising of
Lazarus. Christ was there to share their happiness. In the previous chapter
we have seen Him weeping with those who wept, here we behold Him
rejoicing with those who rejoice! When He restored to life the daughter of
Jairus, He gave the child to her parents and then withdrew. When He
raised the widow’s son at Nain, He restored him to his mother and then
retired. And why? because so far as the record informs us He was a
stranger to them. But here, after He had raised Lazarus, He returned to
Bethany and partook of their loving hospitality. It was His joy to behold
their joy, and share in the delight which His restoration of the link which
death had severed, had naturally produced. That is His “recompense”: to
rejoice in the joy of His people. Mark another contrast: when He raised
Jairus’ daughter He said “Give her to eat”; here after the raising of
Lazarus, they gave Him to eat!
“There they made him a supper.” This points another of the numerous
contrasts in which our passage abounds. Almost at the very beginning of
His ministry, just before He performed His first public “sign,” we see the
Lord Jesus invited to a marriage-feast; here, almost at the very close of His
public ministry, just after His last public “sign,” a supper is made for Him.
But how marked the antithesis! At Cana He turned the water into wine-emblem
of the joy of life; here at Bethany He is anointed in view of His
own burial!
“And Martha served.” This is most blessed. This was her characteristic
method of showing her affection. On a former occasion the Lord had
gently reproved her for being “cumbered with much serving,” and because
she was anxious and troubled about many things. But she did not peevishly
leave off serving altogether. No; she still served: served not the less
attentively, but more wisely. Love is unselfish. We are not to feast on our
own blessings in the midst of a groaning creation, rather are we to be
channels of blessing to those around:

John 7:38, 39. But mark here that
Martha’s service is connected with the Lord: “They made him a supper and
Martha served.” This alone is true service. We must not seek to imitate
others, still less, work for the sake of building up a reputation for zeal. It
must be done to and for Christ:.219
“Always abounding in the work of the Lord”
(

1 Corinthians 15:58).
“And Martha served”: no longer outside the presence of Christ, as on a
former occasion — note her “serve alone” in

Luke 10:40.
“In Martha’s ‘serving’ now we do not find her being ‘cumbered’,
but something that is acceptable, as in the joy of resurrection, the
new life, unto Him who has given it. Service is in its true place
when we have first received all from Him, and the joy of it as
begotten by Himself sweetly ministers to Him” (Malachi Taylor).
“But Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him”
(

John 12:2).
This illustrated the true Christian position. Lazarus had been dead, but now
alive from the dead, he is seated in the company of the Savior. So it is
(positionally) with the believer: “when we are dead in sins, hath quickened
us together with Christ… And hath raised us up together, and made us sit
together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus” (

Ephesians 2:5, 6). We have
been “made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light”
(

Colossians 1:12). Such is our perfect standing before God, and there
can be no lasting peace of heart until it be apprehended by faith.
“But Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.” This supplies
more than a vague hint of our condition in the resurrected state. In this age
of rationalism the vaguest views are entertained on this subject. Many seem
to imagine that Christians will be little better than disembodied ghosts
throughout eternity. Much is made of the fact that Scripture tells us “flesh
and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” and the expression
“spiritual body” is regarded as little more than a phantasm. While no doubt
the Scriptures leave much unsaid on the subject, yet they reveal not a little
about the nature of our future bodies. The body of the saint will be
“fashioned like unto” the glorious body of the resurrected Christ
(

Philippians 3:21). It will therefore be a glorified body, yet not a non-material
one. There was no blood in Christ’s body after He rose from the
dead, but He had “flesh and bones” (

Luke 24:39). True, our bodies will
not be subject to their present limitations: sown in weakness, they shall be
“raised in power.’’ A “spiritual body” we understand (in part) to signify a
body controlled by the spirit — the highest part of our beings. In our
glorified bodies we shall eat. The daughter of Jairus needed food after she.220
was restored to life. Lazarus is here seen at the table. The Lord Jesus ate
food after He had risen from the dead.
“But Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.”
“A happy company it must have been. For if Simon was healed by
the Lord at some previous time, as has been supposed, full to
overflowing must his heart have been for the mercy vouchsafed.
And Lazarus, there raised from the dead, what proofs were two of
that company of the Lord’s power and goodness! God only could
heal the leper; God only could raise the dead. A leper healed, a
dead man raised, and the Son of God who had healed the one, and
had raised the other, here also at the table — never before we may
say without fear of contradiction had a supper taken place under
such circumstances” (C. E. Stuart).
“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly,
and anointed the feet of Jesus” (

John 12:3).
Mary had often heard the gracious words which proceeded out of His
mouth: the Lord of glory had sat at their humble board in Bethany, and she
had sat at His feet to be instructed. In the hour of her deep sorrow He had
wept with her, and then had He delivered her brother from the dead,
crowning them with lovingkindness and tender mercy. And how could she
show some token of her love to Him who had first loved her? She had by
her a cruse of precious ointment, too costly for her own use, but not too
costly for Him. She took and broke it and poured it on Him as a testimony
of her deep affection, her unutterable attachment, her worshipful devotion.
We learn from

John 12:5 that the value of her ointment was the
equivalent of a whole year’s wages of a laboring man (cf.

Matthew
20:2)! And let it be carefully noted, this devotion of Mary was prompted
by no sudden impulse: “against the day of my burying hath she kept this”
(

John 12:7) — the word means “diligently preserved,” used in

John
17:12, 15!
“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and
anointed the feet of Jesus.” Mary’s act occupies the central place in this
happy scene. The ointment was “very costly,” but not too costly to lavish
upon the Son of God. Not only did Mary here express her own love, but
she bore witness to the inestimable value of the person of Christ. She
entered into what was about to be done to and by Him: she anointed Him.221
for burial. He was despised and rejected of men, and they were about to
put Him to a most ignominious death. But before any enemy’s hand is laid
upon Him, love’s hands first anoint Him! Thus another striking and
beautiful contrast is here suggested.
“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and
anointed the feet of Jesus.” Mark tells us she “broke the box” before she
poured it on the Savior. This, in figure, spoke of the breaking of His body,
of which the broken bread in the Lord’s Supper is the lasting memorial.
Both Matthew and Mark tell us that she anointed the head of Christ. This
is no discrepancy. Evidently, Mary anointed both His head and feet, but
most appropriately was John led to notice only the latter, for as the Son of
God it was fitting that this disciple should take her place in the dust before
Him!
“And wiped his feet with her hair” (

John 12:3).
How the Holy Spirit delights in recording that which is done out of love to
and for the glory of Christ! How many little details has He preserved for us
in connection with Mary’s devotion. He has told us of the kind of ointment
it was, the box in which it was contained, the weight of it, and its value;
and now He tells us something which brings out, most blessedly, Mary’s
discernment of the glory of Christ. She recognized something of what was
due Him, therefore after anointing Him she wiped His feet with her “hair”
— her “glory” (

1 Corinthians 11:15)! Her silent act spread around the
savor of Christ as One infinitely precious. Before the treachery of Judas,
Christ receives the testimony of Mary’s affection. It was the Father putting
this seal of deepest devotion upon the One who was about to be betrayed.
“And the house was filled with the odour of the ointment”
(

John 12:3).
This is most significant, a detail not supplied in the Synoptics, but most
appropriate here. Matthew and Mark tell us how Christ gave orders that
“Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world,
this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her”
(

Mark 14:9). This John omits. In its place he tells us, “And the house
was filled with the odour of the ointment.” In the other Gospels the
“memorial” goes forth: here the fragrance of Christ’s person abides in “the
house.” There is much suggested here: not simply the “room” but “the
house” was filled with the sweet fragrance of the person of Christ anointed.222
by the spikenard. Sooner or later, all would know what had been done to
the Lord. The people on the housetop would perceive that something
sweet had been offered below. And do not the angels above know what we
below are now rendering unto Christ (cf.

1 Corinthians 11:10, etc.)!
“Mary came not to hear a sermon, although the first of Teachers
was there; to sit at His feet and hear His word, was not now her
purpose, blessed as that was in its proper place. She came not to
make known her requests to Him. Time was when in deepest
submission to His will she had fallen at His feet, saying, ‘Lord, if
thou hadst been here, my brother had not died’; but to pour out her
supplications to Him as her only resource was not now her thought,
for her brother was seated at the table. She came not to meet the
saints, though precious saints were there, for it says ‘Jesus loved
Martha and Mary and Lazarus.’ Fellowship with them was blessed
likewise and doubtless of frequent occurrence; but fellowship was
not her object now. She came not after the weariness and toil of a
week’s battling with the world, to be refreshed from Him, though
surely she, like every saint, had learned the trials of the wilderness;
and none more than she, probably, knew the blessed springs of
refreshment that were in Him. But she came, and that too at the
moment when the world was expressing its deepest hatred of Him,
to pour out what she had long treasured up (

John 12:7), that
which was most valuable to her, all she had upon earth, upon the
person of the One who had made her heart captive, and absorbed
her affections. She thought not of Simon the leper — she passed
the disciples by — her brother and her sister in the flesh and in the
Lord engaged not her attention then — ‘Jesus only’ filled her soul
— her eyes were upon Him. Adoration, homage, worship, blessing,
was her one thought, and that in honor of the One who was ‘all in
all’ to her, and surely such worship was most refreshing to Him”
(Simple Testimony).
“Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which
should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three
hundred pence, and given to the poor?” (

John 12:4, 5).
What a contrast was this from the affectionate homage of Mary! But how
could he who had no heart for Christ appreciate her devotion! There is a
most striking series of contrasts here between these two characters. She.223
gave freely what was worth three hundred pence; right afterwards Judas
sold Christ for thirty pieces of silver. She was in a “Simon’s” house; He
was a “Simon’s son.” Her “box” (

Mark 14:3); his “bag” (

John 12:6).
She a worshipper; he a thief. Mary drew the attention of all to the Lord;
Judas would turn away the thoughts of all from Christ to “the poor.” At
the very time Satan was goading on the heart of Judas to do the worst
against Christ, the Holy Spirit mightily moved the heart of Mary to pour
out her love for Him. Mary’s devotion has given her a place in the hearts of
all who have received the Gospel; Judas by his act of perfidy went to “his
own place” — the Pit!
Everything is traced to its source in this Gospel.

Matthew 26:8 tells us
that “When his disciples saw it [Mary’s tribute of love], they had
indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?” But John shows us
who was the one that had injected the poison into their minds. Judas was
the original protester, and his evil example affected the other apostles.
What a solemn case is this of evil communications corrupting good
manners (

1 Corinthians 15:33)! Everything comes out into the light
here. Just as John is the only one who gives us the name of the woman
who anointed the Lord, so he alone tells us who it was that started the
criticising of Mary.
In

John 12:3 we have witnessed the devotedness of faith and love never
surpassed in a believer. But behind the rosebush lurked the serpent. It
reminds us very much of

Psalm 23:5:
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine
enemies: thou anointest my head with oil”!
The murmuring of Judas right after the worship of Mary is most solemnly
significant. True valuation of Christ always brings out the hatred of those
who are of Satan. No sooner was He worshiped as an infant by the wise
men from the East, then Herod sought to slay Him. Immediately after the
Father proclaimed Him as His “beloved Son,” the Devil assailed Him for
forty days. The apostles were seized and thrown into prison because the
leaders of Israel were incensed that they
“taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection
from the dead” (

Acts 4:2, 3).
So in a coming day many will be beheaded “for the testimony of Jesus”
(

Revelation 20:4)..224
“Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and
given to the poor?” (

John 12:5).
This was the criticism of a covetous soul. How petty his range of vision!
How sordid his conception! He argued that the precious unguent which
had been lavished upon Christ ought to have been sold. He considered it
had been wasted (

Mark 14:4). His notion of “waste” was crude and
material in the extreme. Love is never “wasted.” Generosity is never
“wasted.” Sacrifice is never “wasted.” Love grudges nothing to the Lord of
love! Love esteems its costliest nard all inferior to His worth. Love cannot
give Him too much. And where it is given out of love to Christ we cannot
give too much for His servants and His people. How beautifully this is
expressed in

Philippians 4:18: “having received of Epaphroditus the
things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smelt, a sacrifice
acceptable, well-pleasing to God.”
Judas had no love for Christ, hence it was impossible that he should
appreciate what had been done for Him. Very solemn is this: he had been in
the closest contact with the redeemed for three years, and yet the love of
money still ruled his heart. Cold-heartedness toward Christ and stinginess
toward His cause always go together. “To whom little is forgiven, the same
loveth little” (

Luke 7:47). There are many professing Christians today
infested with a Judas-like spirit. They are quite unable to understand true
zeal and devotedness to the Lord. They look upon it all as fanaticism.
Worst of all, such people seek to cloak their miserliness in giving to
Christian objects by a pretended love for the poor: ‘charity begins at home’
expresses the same spirit. The truth is, and it had been abundantly
demonstrated all through these centuries, that those who do the most for
the poor are the very ones who are most liberal in supporting the cause of
Christ. Let not Christians be moved from a patient continuance in well
doing by harsh criticisms from those who understand not. We must not
expect professors to do anything for Christ when they have no sense of
indebtedness to Christ.
“Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence and given to the
poor?” These are the first words of Judas recorded in the Gospels; and
how they reveal his heart! He sought to conceal his base covetousness
under the guise of benevolence. He posed as a friend of the poor, when in
reality his soul was dominated by cupidity. It reminds us of his hypocritical.225
“kiss.” It is solemn to contrast his last words, “I have betrayed innocent
blood” (

Matthew 27:4).
“This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a
thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein”
(

John 12:6).
It is good to care for the root, but at that moment the whole mind of God
was centered on the Person and work of His Son, evidenced by His moving
Mary to anoint the Savior for His burial. Opportunities for relieving the
poor they always had, and it was right to do so. But to put them in
comparison with the Lord Jesus at such a time, was to put them out of
their place, and to lose sight of Him who was supremely precious to God.
Judas evidently acted as treasurer for the apostolic company (cf.

John
13:29), having charge of the gifts which the Lord and His disciples
received:

Luke 8:2, 3. But the Holy Spirit here tells us that he was a
“thief.” We believe this intimates that the “field” (or “estate”) which he
purchased (

Acts 1:18) “with the reward of iniquity” (or, “price of
wrong doing”) had been obtained by the money which he pilfered from the
same “bag.” Usually this “field” is confounded with the “field” that was
bought with the thirty pieces of silver which he received for the betrayal of
His Master. But that money he returned to the chief priests and elders
(

Matthew 27:3, 5), and with it they bought “the potter’s field to bury
strangers in” (

Matthew 27:7).
“Then said Jesus, Let her alone” (

John 12:7).
How blessed! Christ is ever ready to defend His own! It was the Good
Shepherd protecting His sheep from the wolf. Judas condemned Mary, and
others of the apostles echoed his criticism. But the Lord approved of her
gift. Probably others of the guests misunderstood her action: it would seem
an extravagance, and a neglect of duty towards the needy. But Christ knew
her motive and commended her deed. So in a coming day He will reward
even a cup of water which has been given in His name. “Let her alone”: did
not this foreshadow His work on high as our Advocate repelling the
attacks of the enemy, who accuses the brethren before God day and night
(

Revelation 12:10)!
“Against the day of my burying hath she kept this” (

John 12:7)..226
This points still another contrast. Other women “brought sweet spices, that
they might come and anoint him” (

Mark 16:1), after He was dead;
Mary anointed Him “for his burial” (

Matthew 26:12) six days before He
died! Her faith had laid hold of the fact that He was going to die — the
apostles did not believe this (see

Luke 24:21 etc.). She had learned
much at His feet! How much we miss through our failure at this point!
Matthew and Mark add a word here which is appropriately omitted by
John.
“Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached
throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be
spoken of for a memorial of her” (

Mark 14:9).
He whose Name is “as ointment poured forth” (

Song of Solomon 1:3),
commended her who, all unconsciously, fulfilled the prophecy,
“While the king sitteth at his table my spikenard sendeth forth the
sweet smell thereof” (

Song of Solomon 1:12).
In embalming Him, she embalmed herself: her love being the marble on
which her name and deed were sculptured. Note another contrast: Mary
gave Christ a momentary embalming; He embalmed her memory forever in
the sweet incense of His praise. What a witness is this that Christ will never
forget that deed, however small, which is done wholeheartedly in His name
and for Himself!
“Hereupon we would further remark that while this can not
diminish the sin of Judas, by making his covetousness any thing but
covetousness, yet but for his mean remonstrance, we might not
have known the prodigality of her love. But for the objection of
Judas, we might not have had the commendation of Mary. But for
his evil eve, we should have been without the full instruction of her
lavish hand. Surely ‘The wrath of man shall praise thee’!” (Dr. John
Brown).
“For the poor always ye have with you: but me ye have not always”
(verse 8).
There is a little point here in the Greek which is most significant, bringing
out, as it does, the minute accuracy of Scripture. In the previous verse “Let
alone (aphes) her” is in the singular number, whereas, “The poor always ye.227
have (exete) with you” is in the plural number. Let her alone was Christ’s
rebuke to Judas, who was the first to condemn Mary; here in verse 8 the
Lord addresses Himself to the Twelve, a number of whom had been
influenced by the traitor’s words. Remarkably does this show the entire
consistency and supplementary character of the several narratives of this
incident. Let us admire the silent harmonies of Scripture!
“For the poor always ye have with you: but me ye have not always”
(

John 12:8).
There is a very searching message for our hearts in these words. Mary had
fellowship with His sufferings, and her opportunity for this was brief and
soon passed. If Mary had failed to seize her chance to render love’s
adoring testimony to the preciousness of Christ’s person at that time, she
could never have recalled it throughout eternity. How exquisitely suited to
the moment was her witness to the fragrance of Christ’s death before God,
when men deemed Him worthy only of a malefactor’s cross. She came
beforehand to anoint Him “for his burial.” But how soon would such an
opportunity pass! In like manner we are privileged today to render a
testimony to Him in this scene of His rejection. We too are permitted to
hayer fellowship with His sufferings. But soon this opportunity will pass
from us forever! There is a real sense in which these words of Christ to
Mary, “me ye have not always” apply to us. Soon shall we enter into the
fellowship of His glory. O that we may be constrained by His love to
deeper devotedness, a more faithful testimony to His infinite worth, and a
fuller entering into His sufferings in the present hour of His rejection by the
world.
“For the poor always ye have with you: but me ye have not always.” One
other thought on this verse before we leave it. These words of our Lord’s
“me ye have not always” completely overthrow the Papist figment of
transubstantiation. If language means anything, this explicit statement of
Christ’s positively repudiates the dogma of His “real presence,” under the
forms of bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper. It is impossible to
harmonize that blasphemous Romish doctrine with this clear-cut utterance
of the Savior. The “poor always ye have with you” in like manner disposes
of an idle dream of Socialism.
“Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there; and
they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus
also, whom he had raised from the dead” (

John 12:9)..228
“This sentence is a genuine exhibition of human nature. Curiosity is
one of the most common and powerful motives in man. The love of
seeing something sensational and out of the ordinary is almost
universal. When people could see at once both the subject of the
miracle and Him that worked the miracle we need not wonder that
they resorted in crowds to Bethany” (Bishop Ryle).
“But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to
death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away,
and believed on Jesus” (

John 12:10, 11).
“Lazarus is mentioned throughout this incident as forming an
element in the unfolding of the hatred of the Jews which issued in
the Lord’s death: notice the climax, from the mere connecting
mention in verse 1, then nearer connection in verse 2, — to his
being the cause of the Jews flocking to Bethany in verse 9, — and
the joint object with Jesus of the enmity of the chief priests in verse
10” (Alford).
Mark it was not the Pharisees but the “chief priests,” who were Sadducees,
(cf.

Acts 5:17), that “consulted that they might also put Lazarus to
death”: They would, if possible, kill him, because he was a striking witness
against them, denying as they did the truth of resurrection. But how fearful
the state of their hearts: they had rather commit murder than acknowledge
they were wrong.
Let the thoughtful student ponder carefully the following questions: —
1. What does verse 13 teach us about prophecy?
2. Why a “young ass,” verse 14?
3. Verse 15 (cf.

Zechariah 9:9); why are some of its words omitted
here?
4. In what sense did Christ then “come” as King, verse 15?
5. Why did not the disciples “understand,” verse 16?
6. Why does verse 17 come in just here?.229
CHAPTER 42
CHRIST’S ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM

JOHN 12:12-20
The following is an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us: —
1. The crowd going forth to meet Jesus, verse 12.
2. The joyous acclamations of the people, verse 13.
3. The Savior mounted on an ass, verse 14.
4. The king’s presentation of Himself to Israel, verse 15.
5. The dullness of the disciples, verse 16.
6. The cause why the people sought Jesus, verses 17, 18.
7. The chagrin of the Pharisees, verse 19.
The passage which is to be before us brings to our notice one of the most
remarkable events in our Lord’s earthly career. The very fact that it is
recorded by all the four Evangelists at once indicates something of
uncommon moment. The incident here treated of is remarkable because of
its unusual character. It; is quite unlike anything else recorded of the Lord
Jesus in the Gospels. Hitherto we have seen Him withdrawing Himself as
much as possible from public notice, retiring into the wilderness, avoiding
anything that savoured of display. He did not court attraction: He did not
“cry nor strive, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets”
(

Matthew 12:19).
He charged His disciples they should “tell no man that he was Jesus the
Christ” (

Matthew 16:20). When He raised the daughter of Jairus, He
“straitly charged them that no man should know of it” (

Mark 5:43).
When He came down from the Mount of Transfiguration He gave orders
to His disciples that
“they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of
man was risen from the dead” (

Mark 9:9)..230
We wish to press upon the reader the uniqueness of this action of Christ
entering Jerusalem in the way that He did, for the more this arrests us the
more shall we appreciate the motive which prompted Him.
“When Jesus therefore perceived that they (the multitude which He
had fed) would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he
departed again into a mount himself alone” (

John 6:15).
When His brethren urged, “show thyself to the world” (

John 7:4), He
answered, “My time is not yet come.” Here, on the contrary, we see Him
making a public entry into Jerusalem, attended by an immense crowd of
people, causing even the Pharisees to say, “Behold, the world has gone
after him.” And let it be carefully noted that Christ Himself took the
initiative here at every point. It was not the multitude who brought to Him
an animal richly caparisoned, nor did the disciples furnish the colt and ask
Him to mount it. It was the Lord who sent two of the disciples to the
entrance of Bethphage to get it, and the Lord moved the owner of the ass
to give it up (

Luke 19:33). And when some of the Pharisees asked Him
to rebuke His disciples, He replied,
“I tell you, that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would
immediately cry out” (

Luke 19:40).
How, then, are we to account for this startling change of policy on the part
of Christ? What is the true explanation of His conduct? In seeking an
answer to this question, men have indulged in the wildest conjectures, most
of which have been grossly dishonoring to our Lord. The best of the
commentators see in the joyous acclamations of the crowds an evidence of
the power of Christ. He moved them to own Him as their “king,” though
as to why He should here do so they are not at all clear, nor do they
explain why His moving their hearts produced such a transient effect, for
four days later the same crowds shouted “Crucify him.” We are therefore
obliged to look elsewhere for the key to this incident.
We need hardly say that here, as everywhere, the perfections of the Lord
Jesus are blessedly displayed. Two things are incontrovertible: the Lord
Jesus ever acted with the Father’s glory before Him, and ever walked in
full accord with His Father’s Word. “In the volume of the book” it was
written of Him, and when He became incarnate He declared “I come to do
thy will, O God.” These important considerations must be kept in mind as
we seek a solution to the difficulty before us. Furthermore, we need to.231
remember that the counsel of the Father always had in view the glory of
the Son. It is by the application of these fundamental principles to the
remarkable entry into Jerusalem that light will be shed upon its
interpretation.
Why, then, did the Lord Jesus send for the ass, mount it, and ride into the
royal city? Why did He suffer the crowds, unrebuked, to hail Him with
their “Hosannas”? Why did He permit them to proclaim Him their king,
when in less than a week He was to lay down His life as a sacrifice for sin?
The answer, in a word, is, because the Scriptures so required! Here, as
ever, it was submission to His Father’s Word that prompted Him. Loving
obedience to the One who sent Him was always the spring of His actions.
His cleansing of the temple was the fulfillment of

Psalm 69:9. The
testimony which He bore to Himself was the same as the Old Testament
Scriptures announced (

John 5:39). When on the cruel Cross He cried,
“I thirst,” it was not in order for His sufferings to be alleviated, but “that
the scripture might be fulfilled” (

John 19:28). So here, He entered
Jerusalem in the way that He did in order that the Scriptures might be
fulfilled.
What scriptures? The answer to this question takes us back, first of all, to
the prophecy which dying Jacob made, a prophecy which related what was
to befall his descendants in “the last days” — an Old Testament expression
referring to the times of the Messiah: begun at His first advent, completed
at His second. In the course of His Divine pronouncement, the aged
patriarch declared, “the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver
from between his feet until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering
of the people he. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the
choice vine” (

Genesis 49:9-11). The word “scepter” here signifies tribal
rod. Judah was to preserve the separate independency of his tribe until the
Messiah came. The fulfillment of this is seen in the Gospels. Though the
ten tribes had long before been carried into captivity, from which they
never returned, Judah (the “Jews”), were still in Palestine when the Son of
God became incarnate and tabernacled among men. Continuing his
prophecy, Jacob announced, “And unto him [Shiloh — the Peacemaker —
cf. ‘thy peace’ in

Luke 19:42], shall the gathering of the people be.”
This received its first fulfillment at Christ’s official entry into Jerusalem.
But mark the next words, “Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt
unto the choice vine.” The “vine” was Israel (Isaiah 5, etc); the “choice
vine” was Christ Himself (

John 15:1). Here, then, was the fact itself.232
prophetically announced. But this by no means exhausts the scriptural
answer to our question.
We turn next to that remarkable prophecy given through Daniel respecting
the “seventy weeks.” This prophecy is found in

Daniel 9:24-27. We
cannot now attempt an exposition of it,
f15
though it is needful to make
reference to it. This prophecy was given while Israel were captives in
Babylon. In it God made known the length of time which was to elapse
from then till the day when Israel’s transgressions should be finished, and
everlasting righteousness be brought in. “Seventy weeks” were to span this
interval. The Hebrew word for “weeks” is “hebdomads,” and simply means
septenaries; “Seventy sevens” gives the true meaning. Each of the
“hebdomads” equals seven years. The “seventy sevens,” therefore, stood
for four hundred and ninety years.
The “seventy sevens” are divided into three unequal parts. Seven “sevens”
were to be spent in the rebuilding of Jerusalem: the books of Ezra and
Nehemiah record the fulfillment of this. After Jerusalem had been restored,
sixty-two more “sevens” were to run their course “unto the Messiah the
Prince.” And then we are told, “After-threescore and two sevens (added to
the previous seven ‘sevens’, making sixty-nine in all), shall Messiah be cut
off.” Here, then, is a definite computation, and a remarkable and most
important Messianic prophecy. “Messiah the Prince” (cf.

Revelation
1:5), was to present Himself to Jerusalem (note “thy holy city” in

Daniel
9:24), after the expiration of the sixty-ninth “seven,” or more specifically,
precisely four hundred and eighty-three years after God gave this prophecy
to His beloved servant.
Now, it is this prophecy which received its fulfillment and supplies the
needed key to what is before us in John 12. The entry of the Lord Jesus
into Jerusalem in such an auspicious manner, was the Messiah formally
and officially presenting Himself to Israel as their “Prince.” In his most
excellent book “The Coming Prince,” the late Sir Robert Anderson
marshalled conclusive proofs to show that our Savior entered Jerusalem on
the very day which marked the completion of the sixty-ninth “hebdomad”
of Daniel 9. We make here a brief quotation from his masterly work.
“No student of the Gospel-narrative can fail to see that the Lord’s
last visit to Jerusalem was not only in fact, but in the purpose of it,
the crisis of His ministry, the goal towards which it had been
directed. After the first tokens had been given that the Nation.233
would reject His Messianic claims, He had shunned all public
recognition of them. But now the twofold testimony of His words
and works had been fully tendered. His entrance into the Holy City
was to proclaim His Messiah-ship, and to receive His doom. Again
and again His apostles even had been charged that they should not
make Him known. But now He accepted the acclamations of ‘the
whole multitude of the disciples,’ and silenced the remonstrance of
the Pharisees with indignation.
“The full significance of the words which follow in the Gospel of
Luke is concealed by a slight interpolation in the text. As the shouts
broke forth from His disciples, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,
blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord,’
He looketh off toward the Holy City and exclaimed, ‘If thou also
hadst known, even on this day, the things which belong to thy
peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes’ (

Luke 19:42). The
time of Jerusalem’s visit had come, and she knew it not. Long ere
this, the Nation had rejected Him, but this was the predestined day
when their choice must be irrevocable.”
One other prophecy remains to be considered, in some respects the most
wonderful of the three. If God announced through Jacob the simple fact of
the gathering of the people unto the Peacemaker, if by Daniel He made
known the very year and day when Israel’s Messiah should officially
present himself as their Prince, through Zechariah He also made known the
very manner of His entry into Jerusalem. In

Zechariah 9:9 we read:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, shout, O daughter of Jerusalem;
behold, thy king cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly
and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.” As we shall
see, several words in this prophecy are not quoted in the Gospels, therefore
this prediction (like all prophecy) will receive another fulfillment; it will be
completely realized when the Lord Jesus returns to this earth.
Before we come to the detailed exposition, let us offer a brief comment
upon what has just been before us. At least three prophecies were fulfilled
by Christ on His official entry into Jerusalem, prophecies which had been
given hundreds of years before, prophecies which entered into such minute
details that only one explanation of them is possible, and that is God
Himself must have given them. This is the most incontrovertible and
conclusive of all the proofs for the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures..234
Only He who knows the end from the beginning is capable of making
accurate forecasts of what shall happen many generations afterwards. How
the recorded accomplishment of these (and many other) prophecies
guarantees the fulfillment of those which are still future!
“On the next day much people that were to come to the feast, when
they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of
palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried: ‘Hosanna!
Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lordí”
(

John 12:12, 13).
It is important to note the opening words of this quotation. What we have
here is the sequel to the first verse of our chapter. “Then Jesus six days
before the passover came to Bethany.” During the week preceding the
passover Jerusalem was crowded with Jews, who came in companies from
every section of Palestine. They came early in order that they might be
ceremonially qualified to partake of the feast (

John 11:55). Already we
have learned that the main topic of conversation among those who
thronged the temple at this time was whether or not Jesus would come up
to the feast (

John 11:56). Now, when the tidings reached them that He
was on the way to Jerusalem, they at once set out to meet Him.
In view of what we read of in

John 11:57, some have experienced a
difficulty here. “Both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a
commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should show it,
that they might take him.” How came it then that we now read of “much
people… took palm branches and went forth to meet him?” The difficulty is
quickly removed if only close attention be paid to what the Holy Spirit has
said.
First, note that in

John 11:57 the past tense is used, “had given
commandment”: this was before the Lord Jesus retired to Ephraim
(

John 11:54).
Second, observe that

John 11:55 tells us “many went out of the
country up to Jerusalem” (

John 11:55). It is evident therefore that
many (if not all) of those who now sallied forth with palm branches to
greet the Lord were men of Galilee, pilgrims, who had come up to the
metropolis from the places where most of His mighty works were
done. It was the Galileans who on a previous occasion sought to make
Him “a king” (

John 6:15, cf. 7:1). They were not only far less.235
prejudiced against Him than were those of Judea, but they were also
much less under the influence of the chief priests and Pharisees of
Jerusalem. Marvelously accurate is Scripture. The more minutely it is
examined the more will its flawless perfections be uncovered to us.
How this instance shows us, once more, that our ‘difficulties’ in the
Word are due to our negligence in carefully noting exactly what it says,
and all it says on any given subject!
“Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him”
(verse 13).
This was a sign of joy, a festival token. In connection with the feast of
tabernacles God instructed Moses to tell Israel,
“And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees,
branches of palm trees… and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your
God” (

Leviticus 23:40).
In

Revelation 7:9, where we behold the “innumerable multitude before
the throne and before the Lamb,” they have “palms in their hands.”
“And cried, Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name
of the Lord.” The word Hosanna means “Save now!” It is a cry of triumph,
not of petition. As to how far these people entered into the meaning of the
words which they here uttered, perhaps it is not for us to say. The sequel
would indicate they were only said under the excitement of the moment.
But looking beyond their intelligent design, to Him whose overruling hand
directs everything, we see here the Father causing a public testimony to be
borne to the glory of His Son. At His birth He sent the angels to say to the
Bethlehem shepherds, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a
Savior, which is Christ the Lord,” and now He suffered this multitude to
hail Him as the Blessed One come in the Name of the Lord. Again; before
the public ministry of Christ commenced, the wise men from the East were
led to Jerusalem to announce that the king of the Jews had been born; and
now that His public ministry was over, it is again testified to that He is “the
King of Israel.”
“And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is
written” (

John 12:14).
This is simply a comprehensive statement, gathering up in a word the
results of the details supplied by the other Evangelists, and which John.236
takes for granted we are familiar with. The fullest account of the obtaining
of the young ass is furnished by Luke, and very striking is it to note what
occurred — see

Luke 19:29-35. There is nothing in his account which
conflicts with the shorter statement which John has given us. “And Jesus,
when he had found a young ass, sat thereon.” He “found” it because He
directed the disciples where to find it! It is another of those incidental
allusions to the Deity of Christ, for in an unmistakable way it evidenced His
omniscience; He knew the precise spot where the ass was tethered!
“Fear not, daughter of Sion; behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an
ass’s colt” (

John 12:15).
Emphasis is here laid on the age of the animal which Christ rode. It was a
“young” one; Luke tells us that it was one “whereon yet never man sat”
(

John 19:30). This is not without deep significance. Under the Mosaic
economy only those beasts which had never been worked were to be used
for sacrificial purposes (see

Numbers 19:2;

Deuteronomy 21:3).
Very striking is this. Like His birth of a virgin, like His burial in a new
sepulcher, “wherein was never man yet laid” (

John 19:41); so here, on
the only occasion when He assumed anything like majesty, He selected a
colt which had never previously been ridden. How blessedly this points to
the dignity, yea, the uniqueness of His person hardly needs to be dwelt
upon.
“Sat thereon, as it is written.” How this confirms what we said at the
beginning. It was in order to fulfill the prophetic Word that the Lord Jesus
here acted as He did. That which was “written” was what ever controlled
Him. He lived by every word which proceeded out of the mouth of the
Lord. The incarnate Word and the written Word never conflicted. What
ground then had He to say, “I do always those things that please him”! O
that we might have more of His spirit!
“Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s
colt.” Momentous hour was this. Israel’s true king, David’s Son and Lord,
now officially presented Himself to the nation. Various have been the
attempts made to interpret this. In recent years the view which has had
most prominence among students of prophetic truth is, that Christ was here
offering the kingdom to Israel, and that had Israel received Him the
millennial reign would have been speedily inaugurated. It is worse than idle
to speculate about what would have happened if the nation had acted
differently from what they did; idle, because “secret things belong unto the.237
Lord.” Our duty is to search diligently and study prayerfully “those things
which are revealed” (

Deuteronomy 29:29), knowing that whatever
difficulties may be presented, Israel’s rejection and crucifixion of the Lord
Jesus were according to what God’s hand and counsel “determined before
to be done” (

Acts 4:28).
What then was Christ’s purpose in presenting Himself to Israel as their
King? The immediate answer is, To meet the requirements of God’s
prophetic Word. But this only takes the inquiry back another step. What
was God’s purpose in requiring Israel’s Messiah to so act on this occasion?
In seeking an answer to this, careful attention must be paid to the setting.
As we turn to the context we are at once impressed by the fact that one
thing there is made unmistakably prominent — the death of Christ looms
forward with tragic vividness. At the close of John 11 we find the leaders
of the nation “took counsel together for to put him to death” and the
Council issued a decree that,
“If any man knew where he was, he should show it, that they might
take him” (

John 11:53, 57).
The 12th chapter opens with the solemn intimation that it now lacked but
six days to the passover. The all-important “hour” for the slaying of the
true Lamb drew on apace. Then we have the anointing of Christ by Mary,
and the Savior interpreted her act by saying, “Against the day of my
burying hath she kept this.”
Here, then, is the key, hanging, as usual, right on the door. The Lord of
glory was about to lay down His life, but before doing so the dignity of His
person must first be publicly manifested. Moreover, wicked hands were
about to be laid on Him, therefore the guilt of Israel must be rendered the
more inexcusable by them now learning who it was they would shortly
crucify. The Lord therefore purposely drew the attention of the great
crowds to Himself by placing Himself prominently before the eyes of the
nation. What we have here is, Christ pressing Himself upon the
responsibility of the Jews. None could now complain that they knew not
who He was. On a former occasion they had said to Him,
“How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell
us plainly” (

John 10:24).
But now all ground for ignorance was removed; by fulfilling the prophecies
of Jacob, of Daniel, and of Zechariah, the Lord Jesus demonstrated that He.238
was none other than Israel’s true king. It was His last public testimony to
the nation! He was their “King,” and in fulfillment of the plain declarations
of their own Scriptures He here presented Himself before them.
The prophecy of Zechariah is not quoted in its entirety by any of the
Evangelists, and it is most significant to mark the different words in it
which they omit. First of all, none record the opening words, “Rejoice
greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem.” The reason
for this is obvious; Israel could not be called upon to “rejoice” while she
was rejecting her King! That part of the prophecy awaits its realization in a
future day. Not until she has first “mourned” as one mourneth for his only
son (

Zechariah 12:10), not until Israel “acknowledge their offense”
(

Hosea 5:15), not until they “repent” (

Acts 3:19), not until they say,
“Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal
us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up” (

Hosea 6:1); in short, not
until their sins are put away, will the spirit of joy and gladness be given
unto them.
In the second place, the words “just and having salvation” are omitted from
each of the Gospels. This also is noteworthy, and is a striking proof of the
verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. It was not in justice, but in grace, that
the Lord Jesus came to Israel the first time. He came “to seek and to save
that which was lost.” He appeared “to put away sin by the sacrifice of
himself.” But when He comes the second time, God’s word through
Jeremiah shall receive its fulfillment — “Behold, the days come, saith the
Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign
and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” But why
the omission of “having salvation?’’ Because Israel as a nation would not
have salvation. Ofttimes would He have gathered her children together, but
they “would not.”
One other omission remains to be noticed: the smallest, but by no means
the least significant. Zechariah foretold that Israel’s king should come
“lowly, and riding upon an ass.” Matthew mentions the lowliness of Christ,
though in the A. V. it is rendered “meek” (

John 21:5). But this word is
left out by John. And why? Because it is the central design of the fourth
Gospel to emphasize the glory of Christ. (See

John 1:14; 2:11; 11:4,
etc.)
“Fear not, daughter of Sion; behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an
ass’s colt” (

John 12:15)..239
The fact that the Lord Jesus was seated upon “an ass” brings out His
mortal glory. As the Son of David according to the flesh, He was “made
under the law” (

Galatians 4:4), and perfectly did He fulfill it at every
point. Now, one thing that marked out Israel as God’s peculiar people was
the absence of the horse, in their midst. The “ox” was used in plowing, and
the “ass” for riding upon, or carrying burdens. An express decree was
made forbidding the king to multiply horses to himself:
“But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to
return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses”
(

Deuteronomy 17:16).
Thus the king of God’s separated people was to be sharply distinguished
from the monarchs of the Gentiles — note how Pharaoh (

Exodus
14:23; 15:1), the kings of Canaan (

Joshua 11:4), Naaman (

2 Kings
5:9), the king of Assyria (

Isaiah 37:8), are each mentioned as the
possessors of many horses and chariots. But the true Israelites could say,
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember
the name of the Lord our God” (

Psalm 20:7).
It is remarkable that the first recorded sin of Solomon was concerning this
very thing:
“And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots,
and twelve thousand horsemen” (

1 Kings 4:26).
It was, therefore, as One obedient to the Law, that Christ purposely
selected an “ass”!
“Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s
colt.” How evident it is that Christ had laid aside His glory (

John 17:5).
He who was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal
with God, made Himself of no reputation,” and took upon Him the form of
a servant. Not only does this action of our wonderful Savior mark His
perfect subjection to the law of Moses, but it also brings out His gracious
lowliness. When He formally presented Himself to Israel as their king, He
rode not in a golden chariot, drawn by powerful stallions, but instead He
came seated upon the colt of an ass. Neither was the beast harnessed with
any goodlier trappings than the garments which His disciples had spread
thereon. And even the ass was not His own, but borrowed! Truly the.240
things which are “highly esteemed among men are abomination in the sight
of God” (

Luke 16:15).
“No Roman soldier in the garrison of Jerusalem, who, standing at
his post or sitting in his barrack-window, saw our Lord riding on an
ass, could report to his centurion that He looked like one who came
to wrest the kingdom of Judea out of the hands of the Romans,
drive out Pontius Pilate and his legions from the tower of Antonia,
and achieve independence for the Jews with the sword” (Bishop
Ryle).
How evident it was that His kingdom was “not of this world!” What an
example for us to “Be not conformed to this world” (

Romans 12:2)!
Perhaps some may be inclined to object: But does not

Revelation 19:11
conflict with what has just been said? In no wise. It is true that there we
read, “And I saw heaven open, and behold a white horse; and he that sat
upon him was called Faithful and True.” There is no room to doubt that
the Rider of this “white horse” is any other than the Lord Jesus Christ. But
He will appear thus at His second advent. Then everything shall be
changed. He who came before in humiliation and shame shall return in
power and majesty. He who once had not where to lay His head shall then
sit on the throne of His glory (

Matthew 25:31). He who was nailed to a
malefactor’s Cross shall, in that day, wield the scepter of imperial
dominion. Just as the “ass” was well suited to the One who had laid aside
His glory, so the white “war-horse” of Revelation 19 is in perfect keeping
with the fact that He is now “crowned with glory and honor.”
“These things understood not his disciples” (

John 12:16).
How ingenuous such a confession by one of their number! No impostor
would have deprecated himself like this. How confidently may we depend
upon the veracity of such honest chroniclers! Like us, the apostles
apprehended Divine things but slowly. Like us, they had to “grow in grace
and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior jesus Christ.” But mark, it
does not say “these things believed not his disciples.” It is our privilege, as
well as our bounden duty, to believe all God has said, whether we
“understand” it or not. The more implicitly we believe, the more likely will
God be pleased to honor our faith by giving us understanding (

Hebrews
11:3)..241
“But when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these
things were written of him, and that they had done these things
unto him” (

John 12:16).
From the fact that the plural number is twice used here — “these things”
— and from the very similar statement in

John 2:22 we believe that the
entire incident of our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, with all its various
accompaniments, are here included. Probably that which most puzzled the
disciples is what Luke has recorded:
“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it”
(

John 19:41).
In view of this verse it would be more accurate to speak of our Lord’s
tearful entry into Jerusalem, rather than His triumphant entry. Christ was
not misled by the exalted cries of the people. He knew that the hour of His
crucifixion, rather than His coronation, was near at hand. He knew that in
only a few days’ time the “Hosannas” of the multitudes would give place to
their “Away with him? He knew that the nation would shortly consummate
its guilt by giving Him a convict’s gibbet instead of David’s throne.
But why should the disciples have been so puzzled and unable to
understand “these things?” It was because they were so reluctant to think
that this One who had power to Work such mighty miracles should be put
to a shameful death. To the very end, they had hoped He would restore the
kingdom and establish His throne at Jerusalem. The honors of the kingdom
attracted, the shame of the Cross repelled them: It was because of this that
on the resurrection-morning He said to the two disciples,
“O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have
spoken; ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter
into his glory?” (

Luke 24:25, 26).
Yes, there had to be the sufferings before the glory, the Cross before the
Crown (cf.

1 Peter 1:11). But when Jesus was “glorified,” that is, when
He had ascended to heaven and the Holy Spirit had been given to guide
them into all truth, then “remembered they that these things were written of
him.”
“The people therefore that were with him when he called Lazarus
out of his grave and raised him from the dead, bare record. For this.242
cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done
this miracle” (

John 12:17, 18).
This line in the picture is supplied only by John, and suitably so, for it was
in the raising of Lazarus that the glory of the Son of God had been
manifested (

John 11:4). They who had witnessed that notable miracle
had reported it in Jerusalem, and now it was known that He who had
power to restore the dead to life was nearing the Capital, many came forth
to meet Him. Doubtless one reason why this is brought in here is to
emphasize the deep guilt of the nation for rejecting Him whose credentials
were so unimpeachable.
“The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how
ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him” (

John
12:19).
Here is one of the many evidences of the truthful consistency of the
independent accounts which the different Evange lists have given us of this
incident. Luke tells us:
“And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto
him, Master, rebuke thy disciples” (

John 19:39),
and the Lord had answered them, “I tell you that, if these should hold their
peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” Here we are shown their
chagrin. They were envious of His popularity; they feared for their own
hold over the people.
But here a difficulty confronts us, and one which we have seen no real
effort to solve. The majority of the commentators suppose that the joyous
greetings which the Lord Jesus received from the crowds on this occasion
were the result of a secret putting forth of His Divine power, attracting
their hearts to Himself. But how shall we explain the evanescent effect
which it had upon them? how account for the fact that less than a week
later the same crowds cried, “Crucify him”? To affirm that this only
illustrates the fickleness of human nature is no doubt to say what is sadly
too true. But if both of their cries were simply expressions of “human
nature,” where does the influencing of their heart by Divine power come
in? We believe the difficulty is self-created, made by attributing the first cry
to a wrong cause..243
Two things are very conspicuous in God’s dealings with men: His
constraining power and His restraining power. As illustrations of the
former, take the following examples. It was God who gave Joseph favor in
the sight of the keeper of the prison (

Genesis 39:22), who moved
Balaam to bless Israel when he was hired to curse them (

Numbers
23:20), who stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to make a proclamation giving
the Jews the right to return to Palestine (

Ezra 1:1, 2). As illustrations of
the latter, mark the following cases. It was God who “withheld” Abimelech
from sinning (

Genesis 20:6); the brethren of Joseph “conspired against
him to slay him” (

Genesis 37:18), but God did not allow them to carry
out their evil intentions.
Now, these same two things are given a prominent place in the Gospels in
connection with the Lord Jesus. At His bidding the leper was cleansed, the
blind saw, the dead were raised. At His word the disciples forsook their
nets, Matthew left the seat of custom, Zaccheus came down from his leafy
perch and received Him into his house. At His command the apostles went
forth without bread or money (

Luke 9:3); made the hungry multitudes
sit down for a meal, when all that was in sight were five small loaves and
two little fishes. Yes, a mighty constraining power did He wield. But
equally mighty, if not so evident, was the restraining power that He
exerted. At Nazareth His rejectors “led him into the brow of the hill… that
they might cast him down headlong. But he, passing through the midst of
them, went his way” (

Luke 4:29, 30). In

John 10:39 we are told
“They sought again to take him, but he went forth out of their hands.”
When the officers came to arrest Him in the Garden, and He said, “I am,”
they “went backward and fell to the ground” (

John 18:6)!
But the restraining power of Christ was exercised in another way than in
the above instances. He also checked the fleshly enthusiasm of those who
were ready to welcome Him as an Emancipator from the Roman yoke.
When they would
“come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed”
(

John 6:15).
All through His ministry He discouraged all public tokens of honor from
the people, lest (humanly speaking) the envy of His enemies should bring
His preaching to an untimely end. But His public ministry was over, so He
now removes the restraint and allows the multitudes to hail Him with their
glad Hosannas, and this, not that He now craved pomp, but in order that.244
the Scriptures might be fulfilled. These transports of joy from the Galileans
were raised because they imagined that He would there and then set up His
temporal kingdom. Hence, when their hopes were disappointed, their
transports were turned into rage and therefore did they join in the cry of
“crucify him”!
Ponder the following questions as a preparation for our next chapter: —
1. Why did the Greeks seek out Philip, verse 21?
2. Why did Philip first tell Andrew, not Christ, verse 22?
3. What is meant by “glorified” in verse 23?
4. Why did Christ say verse 24 at this time?
5. What is meant by verse 31?
6. What is meant by “draw,” verse 32?
7. Why did Jesus “hide” Himself, verse 36?.245
CHAPTER 43
CHRIST SOUGHT BY GENTILES

JOHN 12:20-36
The following is a suggested Analysis of the passage which is to be before
us: —
1. The desire of the Greeks to see Jesus, verses 20-23.
2. Christ’s response, verses 24-26.
3. Christ’s prayer and the Father’s answer, verses 27, 28.
4. The people’s dullness, verses 29, 30.
5. Christ’s prediction, verses 31-33.
6. The people’s query, verse 34.
7. Christ’s warning, verses 35, 36.
The end of our Lord’s public ministry had almost been reached. Less than a
week remained till He should be crucified. But before He lays down His
life His varied glories must be witnessed to. In John 11 we have seen a
remarkable proof that He was the Son of God: evidenced by His raising of
Lazarus. Next, we beheld a signal acknowledgment of Him as the Son of
David: testified to by the jubilant Hosannas of the multitudes as the king of
Israel rode into Jerusalem. What is before us now concerns Him more
especially as the Son of man. As the Son of David He is related only to
Israel, but His Son of man title brings in a wider connection. It is as “the
Son of man” He comes to the Ancient of days, and as such there is
“given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people,
nations, and languages, should serve him” (

Daniel 7:14).
In perfect keeping with this, our present passage shows us Gentiles seeking
Him, saving, “We would see,” not “the Christ,” but “Jesus.” Thus the
Father saw to it that His blessed Son should receive this threefold witness
ere He suffered the ignominy of the Cross..246
It is both instructive and blessed to trace the links which unite passage to
passage. There is an intimate connection between this third section of John
12 and what has preceded it. Again and again in the course of these
expositions we have called attention to the progressive unfolding of truth
in this Gospel, and here, too, we would observe, briefly, the striking order
followed by Christ in His several references to His own death and
resurrection. In John 10 the Lord Jesus is before us as the Shepherd,
leading God’s elect out of Judaism and bringing them into the place of
liberty, and in order to do this He lays down His life that He may possess
these sheep (verses 11, 15, 17, 18). In John 11 He is seen as the
resurrection and the life, as the Conqueror of death, with power in Himself
to raise His own — a decided advance on the subject of the previous
chapter. But in John 12 He speaks of Himself as “the corn of wheat” that
falls into the ground and dies, that it may bear “much fruit.” This speaks
both of union and communion, blessedly illustrated in the first section of
the chapter, where we have the happy gathering at Bethany suppling with
Him.
If the Lord Jesus is to be to others the “resurrection” and the “life”, we
now learn what this involved for Him. He should be glorified by being the
firstborn among many brethren. But how? Through death:
“Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth
alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (

John 12:24).
Life could not come to us but through His death; resurrection — life out of
death accomplished. Except a man be born again he cannot enter the
kingdom of God; and except Christ had died none could be born again.
The new birth is the impartation of a new life, and that life none other than
the life of a resurrected Savior, a life which has passed through death, and,
therefore, forever beyond the reach of judgment.
“The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord”
(

Romans 6:23 Greek).
Some have experienced a difficulty here: If the Divine life in the believer is
the life of the risen Christ, then what of the Old Testament saints. But the
difficulty is more fanciful than real. It is equally true that there could be no
salvation for any one, no putting away of sins, until the great Sacrifice had
been offered to God. But surely none will infer from this that no one was
saved before the Cross. The fact is that both life and salvation flowed.247
backwards as well as forwards from the Cross and the empty sepulcher. It
is a significant thing, however, that nowhere in the Old Testament are we
expressly told of believers then possessing “eternal life,” and no doubt the
reason for this is stated in

2 Timothy 1:10,
“But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus
Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and
immortality to light through the gospel.”
It is very striking to observe that our Lord did not speak of the union and
communion of believers with Himself until the Gentiles here sought Him. It
is a higher truth altogether than any which He ever addressed to Israel. His
Messiahship resulted from a fleshly relationship, the being “Son of David,”
and it is on this ground that He was to sit upon the throne of His father
David and “reign over the house of Jacob” (

Luke 1:32, 33). But this
was not the goal before Him when He came to earth the first time: to bring
a people to His own place in the glory was the set purpose of His heart
(

John 14:2, 3). But a heavenly people must be related to Him by
something higher than fleshly ties: they must be joined to Him in spirit, and
this is possible only on the resurrection side of death. Hence that word;
“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea,
though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth
know we him no more” (

2 Corinthians 5:16).
It is the One who has been “lifted up” (above this earth) that now draws all
— elect Gentiles as well as Jews — unto Himself.
“And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to
worship at the feast: — The same came therefore to Philip, which
was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would
see Jesus” (

John 12:20, 21).
This is very striking. The rejection of Christ by Israel was soon to be
publicly evidenced by them delivering Him up to the Romans. As Daniel
had announced centuries before, after sixty-nine weeks “shall Messiah be
cut off” (

John 9:26). Following His rejection by the Jews, God would
visit the Gentiles “to take out of them a people for his name” (

Acts
15:14). This is what was here foreshadowed by “the Greeks” supplicating
Him. The connection is very striking: in verse 19 we find the envious
Pharisees saying, “The world is gone after him,” here, “And… certain.248
Greeks… saying, We would see Jesus.” It was a “first-fruit,” as it were, of
a coming harvest. It was the pledge of the
“gathering together into one the children of God that were
scattered abroad” (

John 11:52).
It was another evidence of the fields being “white already to harvest’’
(

John 4:35). These “Greeks” pointed in the direction of those other
“sheep” which the Good Shepherd must also bring. It is also significant to
note that just as Gentiles (the wise men from the East) had sought Him
soon after His birth, so now these “Greeks” came to Him shortly before
His death.
Exactly who these “Greeks” were we cannot say for certain. But there are
two things which incline us to think that very likely they were Syro-Phoenicians.
First, in

Mark 7:26, we are told that the woman who came to
Christ on behalf of her obsessed daughter, was “a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician
by nation.”
Second, the fact that these men sought out Philip, of whom it is
expressly said that he “was of Bethsaida of Galilee” — a city on the
borders of Syro-Phoenicia. The fact that Philip sought. the counsel of
Andrew, who also came from Bethsaida in Galilee (see

John 1:44),
and who would therefore be the one most likely to know most about
these neighboring people, provides further confirmation. That these
“Greeks” were not idolatrous heathen is evidenced by the fact that they
“came up to worship at the feast,” the verb showing they were in the
habit of so doing!
These “Greeks” took a lowly place. They “desired” Philip: the Greek word
is variously rendered “asked,” “besought,” “prayed.” They supplicated
Philip, making known their wish, and asking if it were possible to have it
granted; saying, “Sir, we would see Jesus,” or more literally, “Jesus, we
desire to see.” At the very time the leaders of Israel sought to kill Him, the
Greeks desired to see Him. This was the first voice from the outside world
which gave a hint of the awakening consciousness that Jesus was about to
be the Savior of the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Of old it had been said,
“And the Desire of all nations shall come” (

Haggai 2:7). That it was
more than an idle curiosity which prompted these Greeks we cannot doubt,
for if it were only a physical sight of Him which they desired, that could.249
have been easily obtained as He passed in and out of the temple or along
the street of Jerusalem, without them interviewing Philip. It was a personal
and intimate acquaintance with Him that their souls craved. The form in
which they stated their request was prophetically significant. It was not
“We would hear him,” or “We desire to witness one of his mighty works,”
but “We would see Jesus.” It is so to-day. He is no longer here in the flesh:
He can no longer be handled or heard. But He can be seen, seen by the eye
of faith!
“Philip cometh and telleth Andrew” (

John 12:22).
At first sight this may strike us as strange. Why did not Philip go at once
and present this request of the Greeks to the Savior? Is his tardiness to be
attributed to a lack of love for souls? We do not think so. The first
reference to him in this Gospel pictures a man of true evangelical zeal. No
sooner did Philip become a follower of Christ than he
“findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of
whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of
Nazareth” (

John 1:45).
How, then, shall we account for his now seeking out Andrew instead of the
Lord? Does not

Matthew 10:5 help us? When Christ had sent forth the
Twelve on their first preaching tour, He expressly commanded them, “Go
not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter
ye not.” Furthermore, the disciples had heard Him say to the Canaanitish
woman,
“I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”
(

Matthew 15:24).
Most probably it was because these definite statements were in Philip’s
mind that he now sought out Andrew and asked his advice.
“And again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus” (

John 12:22).
In the light of what has just been before us, how are we to explain this
action of the two disciples? Why did they not go to the “Greeks” and
politely tell them that it was impossible to grant their request? Why not
have said plainly to them, Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, and has no
dealings with the Gentiles? We believe that what had happened just before,
had made a deep impression upon the apostles. The Savior mounting the.250
ass, the acclamations of the multitudes which He had accepted without a
protest, His auspicious entrance into Jerusalem, His cleansing of the temple
immediately afterwards (

Matthew 21:12, 13), no doubt raised their
hopes to the highest point. Was the hour of His ardently desired exaltation
really at hand? Would “the world” now go after Him (

John 12:19) in
very truth? Was this request of the “Greeks” a further indication that He
was about to take the kingdom and be “a light to lighten the Gentiles” as
well as “the glory of his people Israel?” In all probability these were the
very thoughts which filled the minds of Andrew and Philip as they came
and told Jesus.
“And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son
of man should be glorified” (

John 12:23).
Now, for the first time, the Lord declared that His “hour” had come. At
Cana He had said to His mother, “Mine hour is not yet come” (

John
2:5), and about the midst of His public ministry we read, “No man laid
hands on him because his hour was not yet come” (

John 7:30). But here
He announced that His hour had arrived, the hour when He, as Son of
man, would be “glorified.” But what is here meant by Him being
“glorified?” We believe there is a double reference. In view of the
connection here, the occasion when the Lord Jesus uttered these words,
their first meaning evidently was: the time has arrived when the Son of man
should be glorified by receiving the worshipful homage of the Gentiles. He
intimated that the hour was ripe for the blessing of all the families of the
earth through Abraham’s seed. But, linking this verse with the one that
immediately follows, it is equally clear that He referred to His approaching
death. To His followers, the Cross must appear as the lowest depths of
humiliation, but the Savior regarded it (also) as His glorification.

John
13:30, 31 fully bears this out: “He then having received the sop went
immediately out: and it was night. Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus
said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” The
two things are intimately related: salvation could not come to the Gentiles
except through His death.
“And Jesus answered them, saving, The hour is come, that the Son
of man should be glorified” (

John 12:23).
It is by no means easy to determine to whom Christ uttered these words.
We strongly incline to the view that they were said to the disciples. The
record is silent as to whether or not the Lord here granted these “Greeks”.251
an interview; that is, whether He left the temple-enclosure where He then
was, and went into the outer court, beyond which Gentiles were not
permitted to pass. Personally, we think, everything considered, it is most
unlikely that He suffered them to enter His presence. If the wish of these
“Greeks” was not granted, it would teach them that salvation was not
through His perfect life or His wondrous works, but by faith in Him as the
crucified One. They must be taught to look upon Him not as the Messiah
of Israel, but as “the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the
ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much
fruit” (

John 12:24).
Very different were the thoughts of Christ from those which, most
probably, filled the minds of His disciples on this occasion. He looked, no
doubt, to the distant future, but He also contemplated the near future.
Death lay in His path, and this engaged His attention at the very time when
His disciples were most jubilant and hopeful. There must be the suffering
before the glory: the Cross before the Crown. Outwardly all was ready for
His earthly glory. The multitudes had proclaimed Him king; the Romans
were silent, offering no opposition (a thing most remarkable); the Greeks
sought Him. But the Savior knew that before He could set up His royal
kingdom He must first accomplish the work of God. None could be with
Him in glory except He died.
“Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth
alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.’! “Nature is
summoned here to show the law of increase which is stamped upon
her; and that creative law is made an argument for the necessity of
the death that is before Him. What an exaltation of the analogies in
Nature to exhibit and use them in such a way as this! And what a
means of interpreting Nature itself is here given us! How it shows
that Christ, ignored by the so-called ‘natural’ theology, is the true
key to the interpretation of Nature, and that the Cross is stamped
ineffacably upon it! Nature is thus invested with the robe of a
primeval prophet, and that the Word, who is God, the Creator of all
things, becomes not merely the announcement of Scripture, but a
plainly demonstrated fact before our eyes today.
“The grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies: it has life in it,
and carries it with it through death itself. The death which it.252
undergoes is in the interest even of the life, which it sets free from
its encasement — from the limitations which hedge it in — to lay
hold of and assimilate the surrounding material, by which it expands
into the plant which is its resurrection, and thus at last into the
many grains which are its resurrection-fruit. How plain it is that this
is no accidental likeness which the Lord here seizes for illustration
of His point. It is as real a prediction as ever came from the lips of
an Old Testament prophet: every seed sown in the ground to
produce a harvest is a positive prediction that the Giver of life must
die. The union of Christ with men is not in incarnation, though that,
of course, was a necessary step towards it. But the blessed man, so
come into the world, was a new, a Second Man, who could not
unite with the old race, and the life was the light of men; but if that
were all, the history would be summed up in the words that follow:
‘And the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended
it not. He was in the world… and the world knew him not.’ To the
dead, life must be communicated that there may be eyes to see.
Men can only be born again into the family of God, of which the
Son of God as Man is the beginning.
“Yet the life cannot simply communicate the life. Around Him are
the bands of eternal righteousness, which has pronounced
condemnation upon the guilty, and only by the satisfaction of
righteousness in the penalty incurred can these bands be removed.
Death — death as He endured it — alone can set Him free from
these limitations: He is ‘straitened till it be accomplished.’ In
resurrection He is enlarged and becomes the Head of a new
creation; and ‘if any man be in Christ, it is new creation’ (

2
Corinthians 5:17). In those redeemed by His blood the tree of life
has come to its precious fruitage” (Numerical Bible).
“He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this
world shall keep it unto life eternal” (

John 12:25).
First of all, this was a word of warning for the beloved disciples. They had
just witnessed the palms of victory waving in His path: soon they should
see Him numbered with the transgressors. The echoes of the people’s
“Hosannas” were still sounding in their ears: in four days’ time they should
hear them cry, “Crucify him.” Then they would enter into the followship of
His sufferings. But these things must not move them. They must not, any.253
more than He, count their life dear unto them. He warns them against
selfishness, against cowardice, against shrinking from a martyr’s cross. But
the principle here is of wider application.
There is no link of connection between the natural man and God. In the
man Christ Jesus there was a life in perfect harmony with God, but because
of the condition of those He came to save He must lay it down. And He
has left us an example that we should follow His steps. If we would save
our natural life, we must lay it down: the one who loves his life in this
world must necessarily lose it, for it is “alienated” from God; but if by the
grace of God a man separates himself in heart from that which is at enmity
with God (

James 4:4), and devotes all his energies to God, then shall he
have it again in the eternal state.
“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there
shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father
honor” (

John 12:26).
If the previous verse was a warning to the disciples, this was spoken for
their encouragement.
“Each grain of wheat that is found on the parent stem follows of
necessity by the law of its own nature the pattern of the grain from
which it came. His people, too, must be prepared to follow Him
upon the road on which He was going. Here is the rule, here is the
reward of service: to be with Christ where He is, is such reward as
love itself would seek, crowned with the honor which the Father
puts upon such loving service. The way of attainment is by the path
which He had trodden, and what that was, in its general character
at least, is unmistakably plain” (Mr. F. W. Grant).
“Now is my soul troubled: and what shall I say?” (

John 12:27).
That was the beginning of the Savior’s travail ere the new creation could
be born. He was seized by an affrighting apprehension of that dying of
which He had just spoken. His holy soul was moved to its very depths by
the horror of that coming “hour.” It was the prelude to Gethsemane. It
reveals to us something of His inward sufferings. His anguish was extreme;
His heart was suffering torture — horror, grief, dejection, are all included
in the word “troubled.” And what occasioned this? The insults and
sufferings which He was to receive at the hands of men? The wounding of
His heel by the Serpent.> No, indeed. It was the prospect of being “made a.254
curse for us,” of suffering the righteous wrath of a sin-hating God. “What
shall I say?” He asks, not “What shall I choose?” There was no wavering in
purpose, no indecision of will. Though His holy nature shrank from being
“made sin,” it only marked His perfections to ask that such a cup might
pass from Him. Nevertheless, He bowed, unhesitatingly, to the Father’s
will, saying, “But for this cause came I unto this hour.” The bitter cup was
accepted.
“Father, glorify thy name” (

John 12:28).
Christ had just looked death, in all its awfulness as the wages of sin, fully in
the face, and He had bowed to it, and that, that the Father might be
glorified. This it was which was ever before Him. Prompt was the Father’s
response.
“Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both
glorified, and will glorify again” (

John 12:28).
The Son of God had been glorified at the grave of Lazarus as Quickener of
the dead, and now He is glorified as Son of man by this voice from heaven.
But there is more than this here: the Father uses the future tense — “I will
glorify again.” This He would do in bringing again from the dead our Lord
Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep: “raised up from the dead by the
glory of the Father” (

Romans 6:4).
“The people therefore, that stood by, and heard, said that it
thundered: others said, An angel spake to him” (

John 12:29).
What a proof was this that the natural man is incapable of entering into
Divine things. A similar instance is furnished in the Lord speaking from
heaven to Saul of Tarsus at the time of his conversion. In

Acts 9:4 we
read that a voice spoke unto him, saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou
me?” In

Acts 22:9 we are told by Paul, “They that were with me saw
indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that
spake to me.” They perceived not what He said. As the Savior had
declared on a former occasion,
“Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot
hear my word” (

John 8:43).
How the failure of these Jews to recognize the Father’s voice emphasized
the absolute necessity of the Cross!.255
“Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but
for your sakes” (

John 12:30).
Three times the Father spoke audibly unto the Son: at the beginning, in the
middle, and at the end of His Messianic career, and in each case it was in
view of His death. At the Jordan Christ went down, symbolically, into the
place of death; on the Holy Mount Moses and Elijah had talked with Him
“of his decease” (

Luke 9:31); and here, Christ had just announced that
His “hour” was at hand. It is also to be observed that the first time the
Father’s voice was heard was at Christ’s consecration to His prophetic
office; the second time it was in connection with His forthcoming decease,
His priestly work, the offering Himself as a Sacrifice for sin; here, it
followed right on His being hailed as king, and who was about to be
invested (though in mockery) with all the insignia of royalty, and wear His
title, “The king of the Jews,” even upon the Cross itself. Mark also the
increasing publicity of these three audible speakings of the Father. The first
was heard, we believe, only by John the Baptist; the second by three of His
disciples; but the third by those who thronged the temple. “For your
sakes”: to strengthen the faith to the disciples; to remove all excuse from
unbelievers.
“Now is the judgment of this world” (

John 12:31).
How this brings out the importance and the value of the great work which
He was about to do! In this and the following verse, three consequences of
His death are stated. First, the world was “judged”: its crisis had come: its
probation was over: its doom was sealed by the casting forth of the Son of
God. Henceforth, God would save His people from the world. Second, the
world’s Prince here received his sentence, though its complete execution is
yet future. Third. God’s elect would be drawn by irresistible vower to the
One whom the world rejected.
“Now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (

John 12:31).
The tense of the verb here denotes that the “casting out” of Satan would be
as gradual as the “drawing” in the next verse (Alford). The Lord here
anticipates His victory, and points out the way in which it should be
accomplished: a way that would have never entered into the heart of men
to conceive, for it should be by shame and pain and death; a way that
seemed an actual triumph for the enemy. Not only was life to come out of.256
death, but victory out of apparent defeat. The Savior crucified is, in fact,
the Savior glorified!
“Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” As pointed out above, the
casting out of Satan was to be a gradual process. In the light of this verse,
and other passages (e.g.,

Hebrews 2:14, 15), we believe that Satan’s
hold over this world was broken at the Cross. The apostle tells us that
Christ
“spoiled principalities and powers, having made a show of them
openly; triumphing over them” (

Colossians 2:15),
and this statement, be it noted, is linked with His Cross! We believe, then,
the first stage in the “casting out” of Satan occurred at the Cross, the next
will be when he is “cast out” of heaven into the earth (

Revelation
12:10); the next, when he is “cast into the bottomless pit” (

Revelation
20:3); the final when he is “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone”
(

Revelation 20:10).
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto me. This
he said, signifying what death he should die” (

John 12:32, 33).
A truly wonderful and precious word is this. It is Christ’s own declaration
concerning His death and resurrection. “I, if I be lifted up from the earth”
referred to His crucifixion; but “will draw all unto me” looked to the
resurrection-side of the Cross, for a dead Savior could “draw” nobody. Yet
the two things are most intimately connected. It is not simply that Christ is
the magnet; it is the crucified Christ.
“It is crucifixion which has imparted to Him His attractive power;
just as it is death which has given Him His life-giving power. It is
not Christ without the Cross; nor is it the Cross without Christ; it is
both of them together” (H. Bonar).
And wherein lies the attraction?
“Because of the love which it embodies. Herein is love — the love
that passeth knowledge! What so magnetic as love? Because of the
righteousness which it exhibits. It is the Cross of righteousness. It
is righteousness combining with love taking the sinner’s side
against law and judgment. How attractive is righteousness like this!
Because of the truth which it proclaims. All God’s truth is.257
connected with the Cross. Divine wisdom is concentrated there.
How can it but be magnetic? Because of the reconciliation which it
publishes. It proclaims peace to the sinner, for it has made peace.
Here is the meeting-place between men and God” (Ibid).
But what is meant by “I will draw”? Ah, notice the sentence does not end
there! “I will draw all unto me.” The word “men” is not in the original. The
“all” plainly refers to all of God’s elect. The scope of the word “all” here is
precisely the same as in

John 6:45 — “And they shall be all taught of
God.” It is the same “all” as that which the Father has given to Christ
(

John 6:37).
“The promise, ‘I will draw all unto me must, I think, mean that our
Lord after His crucifixion would draw men of all nations and
kindreds and tongues to Himself, to believe in Him and be His
disciples. Once crucified, He would become a great center of
attraction, and draw to Himself; re]easing from the Devil’s usurped
power, vast multitudes of all peoples and countries, to be His
servants and followers. Up to this time all the world had blindly
hastened after Satan and followed him. After Christ’s crucifixion
great numbers would turn away from the power of Satan and
become Christians” (Bishop Ryle).
Christ’s design was to show that His grace would not be confined to Israel.
The Greek word here used for “draw” is a very striking one. Its first
occurrence is in

John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father
which hath sent me draw him.” Here it is the power of God overcoming
the enmity of the carnal mind. It occurs again in

John 18:10,
“Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high
priest’s servant.”
Here the term signifies that Peter laid firm hold of his sword and pulled it
out of its sheath. It is found again in

John 21:6, 11, “Simon Peter went
up and drew the net to land full of great fishes.” Here it signifies the
putting forth of strength so as to drag an inanimate and heavy object. It is
used (in a slightly different form) in

James 2:6,
“Do not rich men oppress you and draw you before the judgment
seats?”.258
Here it has reference to the impelling of unwilling subjects. From its usage
in the New Testament we are therefore obliged to understand Christ here
intimated that, following His crucifixion, He would put forth an invincible
power so as to effectually draw unto Himself all of God’s elect, which His
omniscient foresight then saw scattered among the Gentiles. A very
striking example of the Divine drawing-power is found in

Judges 4:7,
“And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon, Sisera, the captain
of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will
deliver him into thine hands.”
In like manner Christ draws us unto Himself.
“Thus it is His heart relieves itself. The glory of God, the
overthrow of evil, the redemption and reconciliation of men is to be
accomplished by that, the cost of which is to be for Him so much.
He weighs the gain against the purchase-price for him, and is
content” (Mr. Grant).
“The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that
Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must
be lifted up? who is this Son of man?” (

John 12:34).
It seems exceedingly strange that men acquainted with the Old Testament
should have been stumbled when their Messiah announced that He must
die.

Isaiah 53, Daniel’s prophecy that He should be “cut off” (

Daniel
9:26), and that solemn word through Zechariah, “Awake, O sword, against
my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of
hosts: smite the shepherd” (

Zechariah 13:7), should have shown them
that His exaltation could be only after His sufferings.
“Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you.
Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he
that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth” (

John
12:35).
His questioners, most probably, in their malignant self-conceit, flattered
themselves that they had completely puzzled Him. But He next spoke as
though He had not heard their cavil. They were not seeking the truth, and
He knew it. Instead of answering directly, He therefore gave them a
solemn warning, reminding them that only for a short space longer would.259
they enjoy the great privilege then theirs, and stating what would be the
inevitable consequence if they continued to despise it.
“While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the
children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did
hide himself from them” (

John 12:36).
“Christ had spoken. Introduced at the commencement of the
Gospel as the Light of men (

John 1:4), He had proclaimed
Himself to be the Light of the world, that whosoever should follow
Him should not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (

John
8:12). He had also said that, as long as He was in the world, He
was the light of it (

John 9:5). Soon would the Light be
withdrawn, His death being near at hand. Is there not, then,
something awfully solemn in these few words of our chapter
(

John 12:35, 36)? He had preached among them. He had
wrought miracles among them. He had kept, too, in His ministry to
the land which God had promised to Abraham. He had never
ministered outside of it. The people in it had enjoyed opportunities
granted to none others. What, now, was the result, as His public
ministry was thus terminating? ‘He departed, and did hide himself
from them.’ Who of them all mourned over His departure? or
sought where to find Him?” (Mr. C. E. Stuart)
Study the following questions on our next lesson: —
1. What is the central design of this passage,

John 12:37-50?
2. Why is

Isaiah 53 quoted here, verse 38?
3. Why was it “they could not believe” verse 39?
4. Whose “glory” is referred to in verse 41?
5. Had those mentioned in verse 42 saving faith?
6. When and where did Jesus say what is found in verses 44-50?
7. What is the “commandment” of verses 49, 50?.260
CHAPTER 44
CHRIST’S MINISTRY REVIEWED

JOHN 12:37-50
The following is an Analysis of the closing section of John 12: —
1. The nation’s response to Christ’s ministry, verse 37.
2. The forecast of Israel’s unbelief by Isaiah, verses 38-41.
3. The condition of those who had been impressed by Christ, verses 42,
43.
4. Christ’s teaching about His relation to the Father, verses 44, 45.
5. Christ’s teaching concerning the design of His ministry, verses 46,
47.
6. Christ’s teaching concerning the doom of all who despised Him,
verses 48, 49.
7. Christ’s teaching concerning the way of life, verse 50.
The passage before us is by no means an easy one to understand. The
previous section closes as follows:
“These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from
them” (

John 12:36).
Many have thought, and we believe rightly so, that this statement brings
the public ministry of Christ to a close in this Gospel. When we enter the
thirteenth chapter it is very evident that a new section there begins, for
from the beginning of 13 to the end of 17 the Lord is alone with His
apostles; while in the 18th He is arrested and led to judgment. But if

John 12:36 marks the ending of Christ’s public ministry, how are we to
understand the verses which follow to the end of the chapter? especially in
view of what is said in verse 44: “Jesus cried and said,” etc.
Now, we believe the answer to this question has been well stated by Dr.
John Brown: “The paragraph itself (

John 12:37-50) is of a peculiar, I.261
had almost said unique, structure and character. The history of our Lord’s
public ministry is closed. It terminates in the verse immediately preceding.
The account of His private interview with His friends, previous to His
passion, is about to commence. It begins with the first verse of the
following chapter. One scene in the eventful history is closed; another is
about to open. The curtain is, as it were, falling upon the theater in which
the public acts of Jesus were performed, and the Evangelist is about to
conduct us into the sacred circle of His disciples, and communicate to us
the sublime and consoling conversations which the Redeemer, full of love,
had with them before His final departure. But before He does this he makes
a pause in the narrative, and, as it were, looks back and around; and, in the
paragraph before us, presents us in a few sentences with a brief but
comprehensive view of all the Lord had taught and done during the course
of His public ministry, and of the effects which His discourses and miracles
had produced on the great body of His countrymen.
John here gives us a resume of Christ’s public ministry, mentioning His
miracles and recapitulating His teaching. The closing section of John 12
forms an epilogue to that chapter of our Lord’s life which had just been
brought to a close in

John 12:36. Four vital truths which had occupied a
prominent place in Christ’s oral ministry are here singled out: His appeal to
the Father which sent Him (

John 12:44, 45, 49); Himself the Light of
the world (

John 12:46); the danger of unbelief (

John 12:47-49); the
end of faith (

John 12:50). The Holy Spirit’s design in moving John to
pen this section was, we believe, at least two-fold: to explain the seeming
failure of Christ’s public ministry, and to show that the guilt of unbelief
rested inexcusably upon Israel.
“The rejection of Jesus Christ by the great body of His fellow-countrymen,
the Jews, is a fact which, at first view, may seem to
throw suspicion on the greatness of His claims to a Divine mission,
as indicating the evidence adduced in their support did not serve its
purpose with those to whom it was originally presented, and who,
in some points of view, were placed in circumstances peculiarly
favorable for forming a correct estimate of its validity. It may be
supposed that had the proofs of His Divine mission and
Messiahship been as strong and striking as the friends of
Christianity represent them, the prejudices of the Jews, powerful as
they unquestionably were, must have given way before them; and
the believers of His doctrine must have been as numerous as the.262
witnesses of His miracles. Such a supposition, though plausible,
argues on the part of its supporters, imperfect and incorrect views
of the human constitution, intellectually and morally” (Ibid).
In other words, it ignores the total depravity of man!
Now, in the closing section of John 12 the Holy Spirit has most effectively
disposed of the above objection. He has done so by directing our attention
to Old Testament predictions which accurately forecast the very reception
which the Messiah met with from the Jews. First, Isaiah 53 is referred to,
for in this chapter it was plainly foretold that He should be “despised and
rejected of men.” And then Isaiah 6 is quoted, a passage which tells of God
judicially blinding His people because of their inveterate unbelief. Thus the
very objection made against Christianity is turned into a most conclusive
argument in its favor. The very fact that the Lord Jesus was put to death by
His countrymen demonstrates that He is their Messiah! Thus has God,
once more, made “the wrath of man to praise him.”
“But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they
believed not on him” (

John 12:37).
Fearful proof was this of the depravity of the human heart. The miracles of
Christ were neither few in number nor unimpressive in nature. The Lord
Jesus performed prodigies of power of almost every conceivable kind. He
healed the sick, expelled demons, controlled the winds, walked on the sea,
turned water into wine, revealed to men their secret thoughts, raised the
dead. His miracles were wrought openly, in the light of day, before
numerous witnesses. Nevertheless “they” — the nation at large —
“believed not on him.” Altogether inexcusable was their hardness of heart.
All who heard His teaching and witnessed His works, ought, without
doubt, to have received Him as their Divinely-accredited Messiah and
Savior. But the great majority of His countrymen refused to acknowledge
His claims.
“The prevalence of unbelief and indifference in the present day
ought not to surprise us. It is just one of the evidences of that
mighty foundation-doctrine, the total corruption and fall of man.
How feebly we grasp and realize that doctrine is proved by our
surprise at human incredulity. We only half believe the heart’s
deceitfulness. Let us read our Bibles more attentively, and search
their contents more carefully. Even when Christ wrought miracles.263
and preached sermons there were numbers of His hearers who
remained utterly unmoved. What right have we to wonder if the
hearers of modern sermons in countless instances remain
unbelieving? ‘The disciple is not greater than his Master.’ If even
the hearers of Christ did not believe, how much more should we
expect to find unbelief among the hearers of His ministers? Let the
truth be spoken and confessed: man’s obstinate unbelief is one
among many of the indirect proofs that the Bible is true” (Bishop
Ryle).
“That the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled which he
spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the
arm of the Lord been revealed?” (

John 12:38).
This does not mean that the Jews continued in unbelief with the conscious
design of fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. Nor does the Holy Spirit here
teach that God exercised a secret influence upon the hearts of the Jews,
which prevented them from believing, in order that the prophecy of Isaiah
might not fail of accomplishment. The Jews did fulfill the predictions of
Isaiah, but it was ignorantly and unwittingly, As one able expositor has
well said, “The true interpretation here depends on the fact, that the
participle rendered that, in the sense of in order that, sometimes signifies so
that, pointing out, not the connection of cause and effect, but that of
antecedent and consequence, prediction and accomplishment. For example,
in the question of the disciples, ‘Who did sin, this man or his parents, that
he was born blind?’ the meaning plainly is, ‘Is this man’s blindness the
consequence of his parents’ sin, or of his own in some preexistent state?’“
We believe it had been better to render it thus: “They believed not,
consequently the saying of Isaiah was fulfilled.” God does not have to put
forth any power to cause any sinner not to believe: if He leaves him to
himself, he never will believe.
It is highly significant that Isaiah 53 opens in the way it does. That
remarkable chapter tells of the treatment which the Savior met with from
Israel when He was here the first time. As is well known, the Jews will not
own it as a prophecy concerning the Messiah: some of them have
attempted to apply it to Jeremiah, others to the nation. How striking then
that the Triune-God has opened it with the question, “Who hath believed
our report?” Most suitably does John apply it to the unbelieving nation in
his day. “And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” The “arm of the.264
Lord” signifies the power of God as it had been manifested by the Messiah.
There are therefore two things here: “Who hath believed our report?”
points to Christ’s oral ministry; “to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”
to His miracles.
“Therefore they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again”
(

John 12:39).
This is exceedingly solemn. It is explained in the next verse. In
consequence of their rejection of Christ, the nation as a whole was
judicially blinded of Cod, that is, they were left to the darkness and
hardness of their own evil hearts. But it is most important to mark the
order of these two statements: in

John 12:37 they did not believe; here
in

John 12:39, they could not believe. The most attractive appeals had
been made: the most indubitable evidence had been presented: yet they
despised and rejected the Redeemer. They would not believe; in
consequence, God gave them up, and now they could not believe. The
harvest was vast, the summer was ended, and they were not saved. But the
fault was entirely theirs, and now they must suffer the just consequences of
their wickedness.
“He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they
should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and
be converted, and I should heal them” (

John 12:40).
This was God’s response to the wicked treatment which Israel had meted
out to His beloved Son. They had refused the light, now darkness shall be
their dreadful portion. They had rejected the truth, now a heart which
loved error should be the terrible harvest. Blinded eyes and a hardened
heart have belonged to Israel ever since; only thus can we account for their
continued unbelief all through these nineteen centuries; only thus can we
explain Israel’s attitude toward Christ to-day.
“All through His Divine ministry in this Gospel, the Lord had been
acting in grace, as the ‘son of the Father’ and as ‘the light of the
world.’ His presence was day-time in the land of Israel. He had
been shining there, if haply the darkness might comprehend Him,
and here, at the close of His ministry (

John 12:35, 36) we see
Him still as the light casting forth His last beams upon the land and
the people. He can but shine, whether they will comprehend Him or
not. While His presence is there it is still day-time. The night cannot.265
come till He is gone. ‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of
the world’! But here, He ‘departed and did hide himself from them’
(

John 12:36); and then God, by His prophet, brings the night
upon the land:

John 12:40” (Mr. J. G. Bellett).
Fearfully solemn is it to remember that what God did here unto Israel He
will shortly do with the whole of unbelieving Christendom:
“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they
should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believe not
the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (

2 Thessalonians
2:11, 12).
Just as in the days of Nimrod God “gave up” the entire Gentile world
because they despised and rejected the revelation which He had given them
(Romans 1); just as He abandoned Israel to their unbelief, through the
rejection of His Son; so in a soon-coming day He will cause unfaithful
Christendom to receive the Antichrist because
“they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved”
(

2 Thessalonians 2:10).
Oh, dear reader, be warned by this. It is an unspeakably solemn thing to
trifle with the overtures of God’s grace. It is written,
“How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”
(

Hebrews 2:3).
Then
“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while
he is near” (

Isaiah 55:6).
“These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spake of him”
(

John 12:41).
A striking testimony is this to the absolute Deity of Christ. The prediction
quoted in the previous verse is found in

Isaiah 6. At the beginning of
that chapter the prophet sees “Jehovah sitting upon a throne, high and
lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” Above the throne stood the
seraphim, with veiled face, crying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts.”
The sight was too much for Isaiah, and he cried, “Woe is me! for I am
undone.” Then a live coal was taken from off the altar and laid upon his.266
mouth, and thus cleansed, he is commissioned to go forth as God’s
messenger. And here the Holy Spirit tells us in John 12, “These things said
Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spake of him” — the context makes it
unmistakably plain that the reference is to the Lord Jesus. One of the
sublimest descriptions of the manifested Deity found in all the Old
Testament is here applied to Christ. That One born in Bethlehem’s manger
was none other than the Throne-Sitter before whom the seraphim worship.
“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him;
but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they
should be put out of the synagogue” (

John 12:42).
Here is a statement which affords help on such verses as

John 2:23;

John 7:31;

John 8:30;

John 10:42;

John 11:45;

John 12:11.
In each of these passages we read of many “believing” on the Lord Jesus,
concerning whom there is nothing to show that they had saving faith. In the
light of the verse now before us it would seem that John, all through his
Gospel, divides the unbelieving into two classes: the hardened mass who
were altogether unmoved by the wondrous works of Christ; and a
company, evidently by no means small, upon whom a temporary
impression was made, but yet who failed to yield their hearts captive to the
Savior — the fear of man, and loving the praise of man, holding them back.
And do we not find the same two classes in Christendom to-day? By far
the greater number of those who come under the sound of the Gospel
remain unmoved, heeding neither its imperative authority nor being
touched by its winsome tidings. They are impervious to every appeal. But
there is another class, and its representatives are to be found, perhaps, in
every congregation; a class who are affected in some measure by the Word
of the Cross. They do not despise its contents, yet, neither are their hearts
won by it. On the one hand, they are not openly antagonistic; on the other,
they are not out and out Christians.
“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but
because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put
out of the synagogue.” This points a most solemn warning to the class we
have just mentioned above. A faith which does not confess Christ is not a
saving faith. The New Testament is very explicit on this. Said the Lord
Jesus,
“Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man
also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me.267
before men shall be denied before the angels of God” (

Luke
12:8, 9).
And in the Epistle to the Romans we are told,
“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt
believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou
shalt be saved” (

John 10:9).
These Jews referred to in our text were satisfied that Christ was neither an
impostor nor a fanatic, yet were they not prepared to forsake all and follow
Him. They feared the consequences of such a course, for the Jews had
agreed already that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be
put out of the synagogue” (

John 9:22). These men then deemed it
wisest to conceal their convictions and wait until the Messiah should place
Himself in such a position that it would be safe and advantageous for them
to avow themselves His disciples. They were governed by self-interest, and
they have had many successors. If any should read these lines who are
attempting to be secret disciples of the Lord Jesus, fearing to come out
into the open and acknowledge by lip and life that He is their Lord and
Savior, let them beware. Remember that the first of the eight classes
mentioned in

Revelation 21:8 who are cast into the lake of fire are the
“fearful”!
“For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God”
(

John 12:43).
These men, whose minds were convinced but whose hearts remained
unmoved, not only feared the religious authorities, but they also desired
the approbation of their fellows. They were determined to retain their good
opinion, even though at the expense of an uneasy conscience. They
preferred the good will of other sinners above the approval of God. O the
shortsighted folly of these wretched men! O the madness of their miserable
choice! Of what avail would the good opinion of the Pharisees be when the
hour of death overtook them? In what stead will it stand them when they
appear before the judgment-throne of God? “What shall it profit a man if
he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” How we are
reminded of our Savior’s words,
“How can ye believe which receive honor one of another, and seek
not the honor that cometh from God only?” (

John 5:44)..268
Let us remember that we cannot have both the good-will of sinners and the
good-will of God:
“Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?
whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of
God” (

James 4:4).
“Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me,
but on him that sent me” (

John 12:44).
Notice that nothing whatever is said about either the time or the place
where the Savior made this utterance. We believe that John still continues
his epilogue, giving us in

John 12:44-50 a summary, of Christ’s
teaching. The substance of what he here says plainly indicates this.
“How strange that this supposed discourse of Jesus should to an
extent of which there is no previous example, consist of repetitions
alone, and, moreover, of only such words as are already found in
John’s Gospel. Did the Lord ever recapitulate in this style, uttering
connectedly so long a discourse without any new thoughts and
distinct sayings? but, when for once St. John recapitulates, seeming
(though only seeming) to put his words into the Lord’s lips, what
an instructive example he gives us, not venturing to add anything of
his own! Yea, verily, all this the Lord had said, each saying in its
season; but St John unites them all retrospectively together” (Stier).
The tense of the verbs here, “Jesus cried and said,” signify, as Stier and
Alford have pointed out, that Christ was wont to, that it was His
customary course of repeated action.
“And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me” (

John 12:45).
That John is giving us in these verses a summary of the teachings of Christ
is evidenced by a comparison of them with earlier statements in this
Gospel. For example: compare
“He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent
me” (

John 12:44)
with

John 5:24 — “He that heareth my word and believeth on him that
sent me.” So here: “He that seeth me seeth him that sent me.” Compare
with this

John 8:19, “If ye had known me, ye should have known my
Father also;” and

John 10:38, “That ye may know and believe that the.269
Father is in me, and I in him.” This was one of the vital truths which
occupied a prominent place in our Lord’s teachings. No man had seen God
at any time, but the only begotten Son had come here to “declare” Him
(

John 1:18). What we have here in

John 12:45 is a reference to the
frequent mention made by Christ to that mysterious and Divine union
which existed between Himself and the Father.
“I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me
should not abide in darkness” (

John 12:46).
Clearly this is parallel with

John 8:12 and

John 9:5:
“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in
darkness… As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the
world.” “I am come a light into the world”:
upon this verse Dr. John Brown has the following helpful comments:
“This proves, first, that Christ existed before His incarnation, even
as the sun exists before it appears above the eastern hills; second, it
is implied that He is the one Savior of the world, as there is but one
sun; third, that He came, not for one nation only, but for all; even
as the sun’s going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his
circuit unto the ends of it; and there is nothing hid from the heat
therof.”
This verse continues John’s reference to the general teaching of Christ
concerning the character and tendency of His mission. He had come here
into this world as a light-revealing God and exposing man — and this, in
order that all who believed on Him should be delivered from the darkness,
that is, from the power of Satan (

Colossians 1:13) and the ruin of sin
(

Ephesians 4:18).
“And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not:
for I came not to judge the world but to save the world” (

John
12:47).
Here the Evangelist calls attention to another truth which had held a
prominent place in our Lord’s teachings. It respected His repeated
announcement concerning the character and design of His mission and
ministry. It tells of the lowly place which He had taken, and of the patient
grace which marked Him during the time that He tabernacled among men..270
It brings into sharp contrast the purpose and nature of His two advents.
When He returns to this earth it will be in another character and with a
different object from what was true of Him when He was here the first
time. Before, He was here as a lowly servant; then, He shall appear as the
exalted Sovereign. Before, He came to woo and win men; then, He shall
rule over them with a rod of iron.
“And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not.” With
this compare verse 45, “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father.
For I came not to judge the world, but to save the world,” compare with
this

John 3:17, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn
the world; but that the world through him might be saved,” and note our
original comments upon

John 3:17.
“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that
judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him
in the last day” (

John 12:48).
This solemn utterance of Christ corrects an erroneous conclusion which
has been drawn by some Calvinists, who deny the responsibility of
unregenerate souls in connection with the Gospel. They argue that because
the natural man is devoid of spiritual life, he cannot believe; a dead man,
they say, cannot receive Christ. To this it might be replied, A dead man
cannot reject Christ. But many do! It is true that a dead man cannot
believe, yet he ought to. His inability lies not in the absence of necessary
faculties, but in the wilful perversion of his faculties. When Adam died
spiritually, nothing in him was annihilated; instead, he became “alienated
from the life of God” (

Ephesians 4:18). Every man who hears the
Gospel ought to believe in Christ, and those who do not will yet be
punished for this unbelief, see

2 Thessalonians 1:7. As Christ here
teaches, the rejector of Him will be judged for his sin. Let any unsaved one
who reads these lines thoughtfully ponder this solemn word of the Lord.
Jesus.
“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth
him.” The first part of this verse is almost identical with what we read of in

John 3:18: “But he that believeth not is condemned already, because he
hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” “The
words that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last. day.” This
takes us back to

Deuteronomy 18:19, where, of the great Prophet God
promised to raise up unto Israel He declared, “And it shall come to pass,.271
that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my
name, I will require it of him.”
“The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
Very solemn indeed is this, for its application is to all who have heard the
Gospel. It tells us three things.
First, there is to be a “last day.” This world will not remain forever. The
bounds of its history, the length of its existence are Divinely determined,
and when the appointed limit is reached,
“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which
the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements
shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are
therein shall be burned up” (

2 Peter 3:10).
Second, this last day will be one of judgment:
“Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the
world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained”
(

Acts 17:31).
Then shall hidden things be brought to light: the righteous vindicated, and
the unrighteous sentenced. Then shall God’s broken law be magnified, and
His holy justice honored. Then shall all His enemies be subjugated and God
shall demonstrate that He is GOD. Then shall every proud rebel be made to
bow in subjection before that Name which is above every name, and
confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Third, Christ’s Word will judge sinners in that Day. His Word was a true
Word, a Divine Word, a Word suited to men. Yet men have slighted it,
attacked it, denied it, made its holy contents the subject of blasphemous
jesting. But in the last great Day it shall judge them. First and foremost
among the “books” which shall be opened and out of which sinners shall be
“judged” (

Revelation 20:12) will be, we believe, the written Word of
God —
“In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ
according to my gospel” (

Romans 2:16).
“For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he
gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should
speak” (

John 12:49)..272
This was something which Christ had affirmed repeatedly, see

John
5:30; 7:16; 8:26-28, etc. It expressed that intimate and mysterious union
which existed between the Father and Himself. His purpose was to impress
upon the Jews the awfulness of their sin in refusing His words: in so doing,
they affronted the Father Himself, for His were the very words which the
Son had spoken to them. In like manner, to-day,
“he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he
believeth not the record that God gave of his Son” (

1 John
5:10).
How terrible then is the sin of despising the testimony of Christ!
“And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever
I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak”
(

John 12:50).
This is an abstract of what we read of in

John 3:11; 5:32; 8:55. It brings
out once more the perfections of the incarnate Son. He acted not in
independency, but in perfect oneness of heart, mind, and will, with the
Father. Whether the Jews believed them or not, the messages which Christ
had delivered were Divinely true, and therefore were they words of life to
all who receive them by simple faith. This closing sentence in John’s
summary of Christ’s teachings is very comprehensive: “whatsoever” He
had spoken, was that which He had received of the Father. Therefore in
refusing to heed the teaching of Christ, the Jews had despised the God of
their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
“And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever
I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak”
(

John 12:50).
Once more we have a declaration which is not confined to its local
application. This verse speaks in clarion tones to all who come under the
sound of the Gospel to-day. God has given not an “invitation” for men to
act on at their pleasure, but a “commandment” which they disobey at their
imminent peril. That commandment is “that we should believe on the name
of his Son Jesus Christ” (

1 John 3:23), hence at the beginning of the
Epistle to the Romans, where Paul refers to the Gospel of God, he says,
“By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for faith —
obedience among all nations” (

John 1:5)..273
This commandment is “life everlasting” to all who receive it by the
obedience of faith. Adam brought death upon him by disobeying God’s
commandment: we receive life by obeying God’ commandment. Then
“see that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not
who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we
escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven”
(

Hebrews 12:25).
Study the following questions in view of our next lesson: —
1. What is meant by the last clause of verse 1?
2. What “supper” is referred to in verse 2?
3. What is the symbolic significance of Christ’s actions in verse 4?
4. What is signified by the washing of the disciples’ feet, verse 5?
5. Why is Peter so prominent in verses 6-9?
6. What is meant by “no part with Me” verse 8?
7. What is the meaning of verse 10?.274
CHAPTER 45
CHRIST WASHING HIS DISCIPLES’ FEET

JOHN 13:1-11
Below is an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us: —
1. Christ’s unchanging love, verse 1.
2. Judas’s inveterate hatred, verse 2.
3. Christ’s return to the Father, verse 3.
4. Christ performing a slave’s work, verses 4, 5.
5. Peter’s blundering ignorance, verses 6-9.
6. Bathing and cleansing, verse 10.
7. The traitor excepted, verse 11.
We are now to enter upon what many believers in each age have regarded
as the most precious portion of this Gospel, yea, as one of the most blessed
passages in all the Word of God. John 13 begins a new section, a section
clearly distinguished and separated from what has gone before. At the
beginning of the Gospel two things were stated in connection with the
outcome of Christ’s mission and ministry: the nation, as such, “received
him not”: this has been fully demonstrated, especially in chapters 5 to 12;
second, those who did “receive him” were to be brought into the place of
children of God. In chapters 13 to 17 we see Christ alone with His own,
separated from the world, telling them of their peculiar portion and
privileges.
At the close of Christ’s public ministry, we are told “He departed and did
hide himself from them”; that is, from the nation (

John 12:36). In 13 to
17 we find the Savior, in most intimate fellowship with His disciples,
revealing to them the wondrous place which they had in His love, and how
that love would be continually exercised on their behalf now that He was
about to leave them and go to the Father. He had told them that,.275
“the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,
and to give his life a ransom for many” (

Matthew 20:28).
All through His career Christ had “ministered” to His own, but now, His
public ministry was over and He was on the eve of giving His life a ransom
for them, to be followed by Him taking His place on high. It would,
therefore, be natural for the disciples to conclude that His “ministry” unto
them was also ended. But not so. It would continue, and that is what this
blessed section of John’s Gospel is primarily designed to show us. He
loved these disciples (and us) not only unto the Cross, but “unto the end.”
His return to the Father would neither terminate nor diminish the activities
of His love for His own: in Heaven He is still occupied with the interest of
His people.
The central design of the “Paschal Discourse” of Christ was to lead His
own into a spiritual understanding of their new place before the Father, and
their new position in the world, as distinguished from the portion and place
which they had had in Judaism. What we have in John 13 to 17 takes the
place of the long Olivet discourse recorded by each of the Synoptists.
Here, instead of taking His seat upon the Mount, He brings the disciples, in
spirit, into Heaven, and reveals the glories, blessedness, and holiness of the
Sanctuary there. Instead of treating of the horrors of the Tribulation, He
discloses to the family of God the activities of their great High Priest, as
well as their own sorrows and joys during the time of their journey through
this wilderness.
While there is a marked contrast between what we have at the close of
John 12 and the beginning of 13, there is also a close link of connection
between them, a link which further develops the progressive unfolding of
truth in this wondrous Gospel. In chapter 12 Christ had spoken of Himself
as “the corn of wheat” which had to die in order that it might bring forth
“much fruit.” As we have seen, this speaks of union and communion —
blessedly illustrated in the opening scene, the “supper” in Bethany. But
here in chapter 13 and onwards, He makes known His own most gracious
work for maintaining believers in fellowship with Himself. Two things,
each most blessed and evidencing His perfections, are to be noted. First,
His eye is on the heavenly sanctuary (

John 13:1); second, His eye is
upon His own (

John 13:4). He guards the holy requirements of God,
and He cares for and ministers to His people. We are left here in this
world, and its dust is defiling, unfitting us for entrance into the Holiest..276
Here in John 13 we see Christ fitting us for that place. It is important for us
to recognize, though, that it is God’s interests which He has at heart in
washing our feet! Christ is here seen as the Laver which stood between the
brazen altar and the sanctuary, and which was approached only after the
brazen altar had done its work.
There is a further link between John 12 and 13 which brings out a most
blessed contrast — let the student be constantly on the lookout for these.
At the beginning of John 12 we behold the feet of the Lord; in John 13 we
see the feet of the disciples. The “feet” of Christ were anointed, those of
the disciples were washed. As the Savior passed through this sinful world
He contracted no defilement. He left it as He came: “holy, harmless, and
undefiled.” The “feet” speak of the walk, and the fact that Christ’s feet
were anointed with the fragrant spikenard tells of the sweet savor which
ever ascended from Him to the Father, perfectly glorifying Him as He did
in every step of His path. But in sharp contrast from Him, the walk of the
disciples was defiled, and the grime of the way must be removed. Note,
also, that the anointing of the Savior’s feet is given before the washing of
the disciples’ feet — in all things He must have “the preeminence”
(

Colossians 1:18)!
That which opens this section and introduces the “Paschal Discourse” is
the Lord washing the feet of His disciples. The first thing to observe,
particularly, is that it was water and not blood which was used for their
cleansing. It is deeply important to note this, for many of the Lord’s own
people seem to be entirely ignorant about the distinction. Their speaking of
a re-application of the blood, of coming anew to “the fountain” which has
been opened for sin and uncleanness when they have transgressed, proves
that this is only too sadly true. The New Testament knows nothing
whatever of a re-application of the blood, or of sinning Christians needing
to be washed in it again. To speak of such things is to grossly dishonor the
all-efficacious sacrifice of the Cross. The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son
cleanseth us from all sin (

1 John 1:7). By
“one offering he hath perfected forever them that are set apart”
(

Hebrews 10:14).
This being so, what provision, we may ask, has been made for the removal
of the defilements which the Christian contracts by the way? The answer is
“water.”.277
A careful study will show that in the Old and New Testaments alike the
“blood” is Godward, the “water” is saintward, to remove impurity in
practice: the one affects our standing, the other our state; the former is for
judicial cleansing, the latter is for practical purification. In the types,
Leviticus 16 makes known God’s requirements for the making of
atonement; Numbers 19 tells of God’s provision for the defilements of the
way, as Israel journeyed through the wilderness. The latter was met not by
blood, but by “the water of purification.” Judicial cleansing from the guilt
of all sin is the inalienable portion of every believer in the Lord Jesus
Christ. Moral cleansing, the practical purification of the heart and ways
from all that defiles and hinders our communion with God is by water, that
is, the Word, applied to us in power by the Holy Spirit.
“Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his
hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the
Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved
them unto the end” (

John 13:1).
This opening verse supplies us with the first key to what follows. What we
have here anticipates that which was in view in Christ’s return to the
Father. He graciously affords us a symbolic representation of His present
service for us in Heaven. He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on
High, but He is there in our interests, ever living to make intercession for
us, ever there as our Advocate with the Father, ever maintaining and
succouring us by the way.
“Now before the feast of the passover,” immediately before, for on the
morrow Christ was to die as the true Lamb. The “passover” itself was
eaten at the close of the fourteenth day of Nisan (

Exodus 12:6, 8); but
“the feast,” which lasted seven days, began on the fifteenth (

Numbers
28:17). What we have here, then, transpired on the eve before our Lord’s
death.
When Jesus knew that his hour was come.” Christ is the only One who has
ever trod this earth that was never taken by surprise. All was known and
felt in the Father’s presence. “That he should depart out of this world”:
note “this world,” not “the world.” It is striking to see how frequently this
term occurs at the close of His life:
“And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world”
(

John 9:39);.278
“He that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal”
(

John 12:25);
“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the Prince of this
world be cast out” (

John 12:31).
“This world” was evidently a terrible place in the Lord’s mind! He could
not stay here. He had made the world (

John 1:10), but sin has made this
world what it is. Note “that he should depart out of this world unto the
Father,” not unto heaven! How blessed! It was the Father’s presence His
heart desired!
“Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the
end.” “His own”! After all the previous conflicts with an unbelieving world,
after all His unavailing appeals to Israel, Christ now comforts His heart by
lavishing His love upon the few who despised Him not. What a blessed
expression”his own”! “Ye are not your own” (

1 Corinthians 6:19); we
belong to Christ. We all know the delight which comes from being able to
call something our own. It is not so much the value of what is possessed
which constitutes this satisfaction, as it is the simple consciousness that it is
mine. It is the Holy Spirit here declaring the heart of the Savior in the
terms of love. It is not with our poor estimate of Him, still less with our
wretched selves, that He would occupy us. He would have us taken up
with Christ’s thoughts about us! We belong to the Lord Jesus in a threefold
way. First, by the Father’s eternal election. We are the Father’s love-gift
to the Son: “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.” Second,
we are His by His own redemptive rights. He paid the purchase price. He
bought us for Himself: “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for
it.” Third, we are His by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit. If any one be
in Christ, he is a new creation, and we are created anew by the Third
Person of the Holy Trinity: “born of the Spirit.”
“He loved them unto the end.” Here is the care of the Good Shepherd for
the sheep. Unto “the end” of what? Who can define it? First, unto the end
of our earthly pilgrimage. We need the assurance of His love as we pass
through this wilderness. We shall not need it when we see Him face to face
and know as we are known. But we do need the full assurance of it now.
And what a resting-place for the poor heart amid all the buffetings of this
life — the bosom of the Savior! It is here that John turned (

John
13:23), and it is blessedly accessible to us, in spirit. Yea, it is to maintain us
in the unending enjoyment of our place there, that the Lord Jesus is here.279
seen washing the disciples’ feet before He begins the long discourse which
follows to the end of chapter 16. The love of Christ must be occupied
about its objects, and this is what we see here. God is “light” (

1 John
1:5), and God is “love” (

1 John 4:16). In the first twelve chapters of
this Gospel Christ is seen as light, revealing the Father, exposing men
(

John 1:7; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5). But now we behold Him (with “his own”)
as love (cf.

John 13:34; 14:12; 15:9; 17:26, etc.). But mark it, it is a
holy love. Divine love cannot allow that which is unclean. Therefore does
the holy love of Christ begin by removing defilement from the feet of His
disciples! Most blessed is this. We delight to contemplate the love which
caused Him to lay down His life for us, but let us never lose sight of the
present activities of it.
“He loved them unto the end? Not only unto the last, but to the farthest
extent of their need and of His grace. He knew that Philip would
misunderstand Him, that three of them would sleep while He prayed and
agonized, that Peter would deny Him, that Thomas would doubt Him, that
all would “forsake him” — yet He “loved them unto the end”! And so it is
with us, dear Christian reader. “His own” are the objects of HIS love;
“unto the end” is the extent of His love. He loves us unto “the end” of our
miserable failures, unto the “end” of our wanderings and backslidings, unto
the “end” of our unworthiness, unto the “end” of our deep need.
His love no end or measure knows,
No change can turn its course;
Eternally the same it flows
From one eternal Source.
The first part of our verse intimates two things about the Lord Jesus at this
time: the Cross was before Him with all its horrors; the joy of returning to
the Father was before Him with all its bliss; yet neither the fearful prospect
of woe nor the hope of unspeakable rest and gladness shook His love for
His own. He is the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever, therefore His
love never varies. He is eternal, therefore has He loved us with an
everlasting love. He is Divine, therefore is His love different from all
others, passing human knowledge.
“And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart
of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him” (

John 13:2)..280
What a fearful contrast! From love to hate; from the Savior to Satan; from
“his own” to the traitor! The mention of Judas here seems to be for the
purpose of enhancing the beauty of what follows. The Devil had full
mastery over the heart of the betrayer: thus in figure the Cross was passed
— Satan had accomplished his design.
“Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands,
and that he was come from God, and went to God” (

John 13:3)
“These statements of Christ’s Divine origin, authority, and coming
glory, are made so as to emphasize the amazing condescension of
the service to which He humbled Himself to do the office of a
bondslave” (Companion Bible).
“Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands,
and that he was come from God, and went to God; he riseth from
supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded
himself” (

John 13:3, 4).
“It was not in forgetfulness of His Divine origin, but in full
consciousness of it, He discharged this menial function. As He had
divested Himself of the ‘form of God’ at the first, stripping Himself
of the outward glory attendant on recognized Deity; and had taken
upon Himself ‘the form of a servant,’ so now He laid aside His
garment and girded Himself; assuming the guise of a household
slave. For a fisherman to pour water over a fisherman’s feet was no
great condescension; but that He, in whose hands are all human
affairs and whose nearest relation is the Father, should thus
condescend, is of unparalleled significance. It is this kind of action
that is suitable to One whose consciousness is Divine. Not only
does the dignity of Jesus vastly augment the beauty of the action,
but it also sheds new light on the Divine character” (Dr. Dods).
Three things are to be carefully noted here as reasons why He washed His
disciples’ feet on this occasion. First, He knew that His hour was come
when He should depart out of this world (

John 13:1); second, He loved
His own unto the end (

John 13:1); third, because all things had been
given into His hands, and He that had come from God was returning to
God — for these reasons He arose from the table and girded Himself with
a towel. As we shall see, all of this finds its explanation in the Lord’s words
to Peter,.281
“If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (

John 13:8).
For three years the disciples had had “a part” with Him. But now He was
about to leave them; but before doing so He would assure them (and us)
that His wondrous love continues undiminished and unchanged after His
return to the Father. Christ began a service in the Glory which, in another
manner, He will continue forever. The service in which He is now engaged
is to maintain our “part” with Him.
There has been much controversy as to what “supper” is referred to here in
John 13. Most assuredly it was not the “Lord’s Supper,” for in

John
13:26 we find Christ giving the “sop” to Judas, and the Synoptists make it
unmistakably plain that this was at the paschal supper. The Lord’s Supper
receives no mention in the fourth Gospel. On this fact Bishop Ryle
strikingly says, “I think it was specially intended to be a witness forever
against the growing tendency of Christians to make an idol out of the
sacraments. Even from the beginning there seems to have been a
disposition in the Church to make a religion of forms and ceremonies
rather than of heart, and to exalt outward ordinances to a place which God
never meant them to fill. Against this teaching St. John was raised up to
testify. The mere fact that in his Gospel he leaves out the Lord’s Supper
altogether, and does not even name it, is strong proof that the Lord’s
Supper cannot be, as many tell us, the first, chief, and principle thing in
Christianity. His perfect silence about it can never be reconciled with this
favorite theory. It is a most conspicuous silence, I can only see one answer:
it is because it is not a primary, but a secondary thing in Christ’s religion.”
“He riseth from supper.” In the order of events this comes right after what
we read of in

John 13:1: the time-mark there being connected with
Christ’s action here. Evidently it was just before the beginning of the meal
that the Lord Jesus rose from the table — the meal being the paschal one.
It is important to note that John’s narrative carries everything on in strict
connection from this point to

John 14:31, and then on to

John 18:1:
therefore this “supper” and Christ’s discourse to His disciples was at once
followed by the going forth to Gethsemane. The question of Peter in

John 13:24 is inexplicable if the paschal supper had already taken place
(as quite a number have insisted), for the Synoptists are explicit that our
Lord named the betrayer during this meal. Most of the difficulty has been
created by the first clause of

John 13:2, which should be rendered,.282
“when the supper arrived,” i.e., was ready. Mark how that 13:12 shows us
Christ resuming His place at the table.
“He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments: and took a
towel, and girded himself” (

John 13:4).
Everything here, we doubt not, has a deep symbolical meaning. The
“supper” was the paschal one, and clearly spoke of Christ’s death. The
rising from supper and the laying aside of His garments (cf.

John 20:6)
pictured our Lord on the resurrection-side of the grave. The girding
Himself speaks of service, the heavenly service in which He is now
engaged on behalf of His people. It is a wonderful thing that the Lord
never relinquished His servant character. Even which the modern
advocates of the so-called sacramental system can never get over, or
explain away. If the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper really is the first and
chief thing in Christianity, why does St. John tell us nothing about it? To
that question after His return to the Glory He still ministers to us.
Beautifully was this typified of old in connection with the Hebrew servant
in Exodus 21.
“If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the
seventh he shall go out free…. If the servant shall plainly say I love
my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free, then his
master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to
the door, and unto the door-post; and his master shall bore his ear
through with an aul; and he shall serve him forever” (verses 2-5, 6).
This has been expounded at length in our “Gleanings in Exodus.” Suffice it
now to say that it affords us a most blessed foreshadowment of the perfect
Servant. Christ will “serve forever.” To-day He is serving us, applying the
Word (by His Spirit) to our practical state, dealing with what unfits us for
fellowship with Himself on high.

Luke 12:37 gives us a precious word
upon His future service: “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when
he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird
himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve
them.” And how will He “serve” us then? By ministering to our happiness
and enjoyment as “His guests”!
“After that he poureth water into a basin,” etc. (

John 13:5).
Everything here is Divinely perfect. Seven distinct actions are attributed to
the Savior:.283
“He (1) riseth from supper, and
(2) laid aside his garments, and
(3) took a towel, and
(4) girded himself. After that he
(5) Poureth water into a basin, and
(6) began to wash the disciples’ feet, and
(7) to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.”
It was their feet which He here proceeded to wash. Their persons were
already cleansed. They had been brought out of Judaism, and a heavenly
portion was now theirs — a place in the Father’s House. But their conduct
must be suited to that House. Their walk must be in accord with their
heavenly calling. They must be kept clean in their ways.
The water with which the Savior here cleansed the soiled feet of His
disciples was an emblem of the Word:
“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed
thereto according to thy word” (

Psalm 119:9).
Fully and blessedly is this brought out in

Ephesians 5:25, 26:
“Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might
sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”
“Every clause of this passage is found here in

John 13. He
‘loved’ them, the Church. He ‘gave himself’ for them, the ‘supper’
setting forth that: that He might ‘sanctify,’ separate to Himself, thus
they were ‘his own’; and ‘cleanse’ it with the washing of water by
the Word. It is complete; His constant, perfect provision for our
being kept clean” (Mr. Malachi Taylor).
It is to be particularly observed that the Lord did not leave this work
unfinished or half done: like a perfect servant, our Lord not only “washed”
their feet, but He “wiped” them as well!
“Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord,
dost thou wash my feet?” (

John 13:6)..284
Simon was ever blundering, and his sad faults and failings are recorded for
our learning. “In Divine things the wisdom of the believer is subjection to
Christ and confidence in Him. What He does we are called on to accept
with thankfulness of heart, and as Mary said to the servants at the
marriage-feast, ‘Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.’ This Simon Peter did
not, for when the Lord approached him in the form of a servant or bond-man,
he demurred. Was there not faith ‘working by love’ in Peter’s heart?
Both, undoubtedly, yet not then in action, but buried under superabundant
feeling of a human order, else he had not allowed his mind to question
what the Lord saw fit to do. He had rather bowed to Christ’s love and
sought to learn, as He might teach, what deep need must be in him and his
fellows to draw forth such a lowly yet requisite service from his Master…
Too self-confident and indeed ignorant not only of himself and the defiling
scene around, but of the depths and constancy of Christ’s love, Peter says
to Him, ‘Lord, dost thou wash my feet?’ Granting that he could not know
what was not yet revealed, but was it comely of him, was it reverent, to
question what the Lord was doing? He may have thought it humility in
himself, and honor to the Lord, to decline a service so menial at His hands.
But Peter should never have forgotten that as Jesus never said a word, so
He never did an act save worthy of God and demonstrative of the Father;
and now more than ever were His words and ways an exhibition of Divine
grace, as human evil set on by Satan, not only in those outside, but within
the innermost circle of His own, called for increased distinctness and
intensity.
“The truth is we need to learn from God how to honor Him, and
learn to love according to His mind. And if any man think that he
knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know;
this, too, was Peter’s mistake. He should have suspected his
thoughts, and waited in all submissiveness on Him who, as many
confessed that knew far less than he did, ‘hath done all things well,’
and was absolutely what He was saying, truth and love in the same
blessed Person. The thoughts of God are never as ours, and saints
slip into those of man, unless they are taught of God, by faith, in
detail, too, as well as in the main; for we cannot, ought not, to trust
ourselves in anything. God the Father will have the Son honored;
and He is honored most when believed in and followed in His
humiliation. Peter therefore was equally astray when he once
ventured to rebuke the Lord for speaking of His suffering and.285
death, as now when he asks, ‘Dost thou wash my feet?í” (Bible
Treasury).
“Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not
now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (

John 13:7).
We take it that the force of this is, briefly, as follows: Peter, this gives a
picture, a sample, of the work which I shall perform for My people when I
return to the Father. You do not see the significance of it now, but you will
later, when the Holy Spirit has come. This was really a rebuke; but given
tenderly. Peter ought to have known that in his Lord’s mysterious action
there must be a purpose and a meaning in it worthy of His subjection to the
Father and expressive of His love for His own. But like us, Peter was dull
of discernment, slow to learn. Instead of gladly submitting to the most high
Sovereign now performing the service of a slave, he plunges still further
into worse error: “Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet.” It
was ignorance, yea, affection, which prompted him; but that did not excuse
him. But how blessed that he had, and that we have, to do with One who
bears with us in our dullness, and whose grace corrects our faults!
“Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet”
(

John 13:8).
We are all ready to censure Peter for not complying immediately with the
Lord’s will when he knew it. But let us beware lest we be guilty of
something more inexcusable than what we condemn in the apostle. Peter
said he would not submit, yet he did, and that very quickly. Is it not sadly
true of us, that we often say we will submit, and yet remain obstinately
disobedient? As another has said, “We do not use Peter’s words, but we
act them, which he durst not do. What, then, is the difference between us
and him? Is it not just the difference between the two sons in the parable
— the one of whom said, ‘I go, and went not,’ the other of whom said, ‘I
will not go, and afterwards repented and went?’ Which of these did the will
of the father? Whether do you think Peter’s refractory expression, or our
disobedient conduct, most deserving of censure?”
“Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me”
(

John 13:8).
“If I wash thee not”: we cannot wash our own feet; we are totally
incompetent, not only for the saving of our souls, hut also for the cleansing
of our defiled walk. Nor has even the Word apart from His living presence.286
any efficacy. Our feet must be in His hands, that is to say, we must
completely yield to Him. It is not simply that we are to judge our ways
according to our apprehension of the Word, and its requirements, but He
must interpret and apply it, and for this we must be in His presence.
But what is meant by “no part with me?” Ah, here is the key that unlocks
the chamber that conducts us to the very center of this incident. The word
“part” has reference to fellowship. This is seen from our Lord’s words
concerning the sister of Martha: “Mary hath chosen that good part”
(

Luke 10:42). The meaning of this word “part” is clearly defined again
in

2 Corinthians 6:15, “What concord hath Christ with Belial? or what
part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”
What is the “washing”? “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” It
is something which is needed by all believers. We say “believers,” for
though all such have a portion in Christ, how often they fail to enjoy their
“part” with Him. This “washing” is something more than confession of sin
and the consequent forgiveness. It is the searching out of the Word, in the
presence of God, of that which led me into evil; it is judging the root, of
which sins are the fruit. Yet this “washing” must not be limited to God’s
remedy for our declension and failure, rather should we view it as His
gracious provision for our daily need, as a preservative and preventative
against outward failures. We need to get alone with our Lord each day,
opening our hearts to the light as the flower does its petals to the sun.
Alas! that we have so little consciousness of our deep need for this, and
that there is so little retirement and examination of our ways before God.
To really place our feet for washing in the blessed hands of Christ is to
come before Him in the attitude of the Psalmist:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my
thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in
the way everlasting” (

Psalm 139:23, 24).
This is imperatively necessary if, while in such a defiling place as this
world, we are to have a “part” with Him.
“Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my
hands and my head” (

John 13:9).
Here, with characteristic impulsiveness, Peter rushes to the opposite
extreme. As he hears that he could have no part with Christ except the
Lord wash him, he is ready now to be washed all over. It was the.287
passionate outburst of a warm-hearted if dull-minded disciple.
Nevertheless, his ignorance voiced another error. He needed not now to be
washed all over. The sinner does, but the saint does not. It is only our walk
which needs cleansing.
“Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his
feet, but is clean every whit” (

John 13:10).
The distinction which our Lord here drew is of vital importance. “He that
is washed,” better, “He who has been bathed,” that is, his whole person
cleansed: “needeth not save to wash his feet,” then is he completely fit for
communion with the Lord. There is a washing which believers have in
Christ that needs not to be ever repeated. In Him there is to be found a
cleansing which is never lost.
“By one offering he hath perfected forever them that are set apart”
(

Hebrews 10:14).
The believer has been purged from all sin, and made meet to be a partaker
of the inheritance of the saints in light (

Colossians 1:12). This purging
needs no repetition. It is of first moment that the Christian should be dear
upon this basic truth. The benefits which Christ confers upon the believer
are never recalled; the efficacy of His precious blood abides upon him
eternally. The moment a sinner, drawn by the Holy Spirit, comes to Christ,
he is completely and finally cleansed. It is the apprehension of this which
gives a finn rock for my feet to rest upon. It assures me that my hope is a
stable one; that my standing before God is immutable. It banishes doubt
and uncertainty. It gives the heart and mind abiding peace to know that the
benefits I have found in Christ are never to be recalled. I am brought out
from under condemnation and placed in a state of everlasting acceptance.
All this, and more, is included in the “bathing” which Christ has declared
needs not to be repeated. I stand resplendent in the sight of God in all the
Savior’s beauty and perfections. God looks upon believers not merely as
forgiven, but as righteous: as truly as Christ was “made sin” for us, so have
we been “made the righteousness of God in him.”
But side by side with this blessed truth of a bathing in Christ which needs
not, and cannot be, repeated, stands another truth of great practical
importance: “He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is
clean every whit.” There is a partial cleansing which the believer still needs,
a daily washing to counteract the defiling effects of this world. Our daily.288
contact with the evil all around causes the dust of defilement to settle upon
us so that the mirror of our conscience is dimmed and the spiritual
affections of our heart are dulled. We need to come afresh into the
presence of Christ in order to learn what things really are, surrendering
ourselves to His judgment in everything, and submitting to His purging
Word. And who is there that, even for a single day, lives without sin? Who
is there that does not need to daily pray, “Forgive us our trespasses’’? Only
One has ever walked here and been unsoiled by the dust of earth. He went
as He came, unstained, uncontaminated. But who is there among His
people that does not find much in his daily walk that makes him blush for
shame! How much unfaithfulness we all have to deplore! Let me but
compare my walk with Christ’s, and, unless I am blinded by conceit or
deceived by Satan, I shall at once see that I come infinitely short of Him,
and though “following his steps” (not “in his steps” as it is so often
misquoted), it is but “afar off.” So often my acts are un-Christlike in
character, so often my disposition and ways have “the flesh” stamped upon
them. Even when evil does not break out in open forms, we are conscious
of much hidden wrong, of sins of thought, of vile desires. How real, then,
how deep, is our daily need of putting our feet in the hands of Christ for
cleansing, that everything which hinders communion with Him may be
removed, and that He can say of us, “Ye are clean”!
Is it not most significant that nothing is said in this chapter about the
washing of the disciples’ hands? Does it not point a leading contrast
between the Mosaic and the Christian dispensations? Under the law, where
there was so much of doing, the priests were required to wash both their
hands and their feet (

Exodus 30:19); but under grace all has been done
for us, and if the walk be right, the work will be acceptable!
“And ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him;
therefore said he, Ye are not all clean” (

John 13:10, 11).
Christ here referred to Judas, though He did not name the Traitor. Judas
must have known what He meant, but his conscience was seared as with a
red-hot iron, and his heart was harder than the nether mill-stone. Even this
touching exhibition of the condescending love and grace of Christ toward
His disciples made no impression upon him. In less than one hour he went
forth to sell his Master. In his case it was not a matter of losing spiritual
life, but of manifesting the fact that he never had it. It was not a sheep of
Christ becoming unclean, but of a dog returning to his vomit. Unspeakably.289
solemn warning is this for those who, for a time, maintain an outward form
of godliness, but are strangers to its inward power.
The following questions are to help the student prepare for the next lesson:

1. What is the typical teaching of verse 12?
2. What is the important lesson on reverence in verse 13?
3. How are we to obey, verses 14, 15?
4. What is the thought suggested by verse 16 coming right after verses
14, 15?
5. What lessons are to be learned from verse 17?
6. What is the meaning of verse 19?
7. What blessed truth is expressed in verse 20?.290
CHAPTER 46
CHRIST’S EXAMPLE FOR US

JOHN 13:12-20
The following is given as an Analysis of the second section of John 13: —
1. Christ’s searching question, verse 12.
2. Christ’s dignity and authority, verse 13.
3. Christ’s example for us to follow, verses 14, 15.
4. Christ’s warning against pride, verse 16.
5. Christ’s approval of practical godliness, verse 17.
6. Christ’s word about the Traitor, verses 18, 19.
7. Christ’s encouragement to His servants, verse 20.
The opening portion of John 13 makes known the provision which Divine
love has made for failure in our walk as we journey through this world-wilderness,
and the means which are used to maintain us in fellowship with
Christ. Its central design is stated by the Lord when He said to Peter, “If I
wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” The washing of our feet is
imperative if we are to enjoy fellowship with the Holy One of God.
“Grace” has given us a place in Christ, now “truth” operates to maintain
our place with Christ. The effect of this ministry is stated in verse 10: “He
that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.”
There is a double washing for the believer: the one of his entire person, the
other of his feet; the former is once for all, the latter needs repeating daily.
In both instances the “washing” is by the Word. Of the former we read,
“Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor
extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were
some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are
justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our
God” (

1 Corinthians 6:10, 11)..291
And again,
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according
to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and
renewing of the holy Spirit’ (

Titus 3:5).
The “washing of regeneration” is not by blood, though it is inseparable
from redemption by blood; and neither the one nor the other is ever
repeated. Of the latter we read, “Christ also loved the church, and gave
himself for it: That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of
water BY THE WORD. That he might present it to himself a glorious
church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be
holy and without blemish” (

Ephesians 5:25-27). This same distinction
was plainly marked in the Old Testament. When Aaron and his sons were
consecrated, they were bathed all over (

Exodus 29:4;

Leviticus 8:6):
but at the “laver” it was only their hands and feet which were daily
cleansed (

Exodus 30:19, 21).
In our last chapter we pointed out how that the “blood” is Godward, the
“water” saintwards. The one is for legal expiation, the other for moral
purification. Now, while both the “bathing” (

Titus 3:5) and the
“washing” of the saints’ feet is by the “water of the word,” there is a
“cleansing” by blood — “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us
from all sin” (

1 John 1:7). But this “cleansing” is judicial, not
experiential. The precious blood has not been applied to my heart, but it
has cancelled my guilt. It has washed out the heavy and black account
which was once against me on high. A “book of remembrance’’ is written
before God (

Malachi 3:16), but in it there is not left on record a single
sin against any believer. Just as a damp sponge passed over a slate removes
every chalk mark upon it, so the blood of Christ has blotted out every
transgression which once was marked up against me. How deeply
significant, then, to read that when the Roman soldier pierced the side of
the dead Savior that “forthwith came there out blood and water” (

John
19:34)! The blood for penal expiation, the water for moral purification. But
mark the order: first, the “blood” to satisfy the demands of a holy God,
then the “water” to meet the needs of His defiled people!
The distinction between the bathing of the entire body and the washing of
the feet was aptly illustrated by the ancient custom of bathers. A person
returning from the public baths, was, of course, dean, and needed not to be
re-bathed. But wearing only sandals, which covered but part of the feet, he.292
quickly needed the foot-bath to cleanse himself from the dust of travel
encountered on his way from the baths to his home. Even to-day bathers in
the sea are often seen going to their dressing-room with a pail of water to
cleanse their soiled feet. This may be regarded as a parable of the spiritual
life. Believers were bathed, completely cleansed, at the new birth. The
“dressing-room” is Heaven, where we shall be robed in white raiment and
garments of glory. But the pail of water is needed for our present use in
connection with the daily walk.
In the second section of John 13 the Lord Jesus makes a practical
application to the disciples of what He had just done for them. He intimates
very plainly that,, there was a spiritual meaning in His washing of their feet:
Know ye not what I have done to you?” He tells them expressly that they
ought to wash one another’s feet. If they shrank from such lowly service,
He reminds them that none other than He, their Master and Lord, had done
so much for them. He warns them that a theoretical knowledge of these
things was of no value, unless it resulted in an actual carrying out of them:
“If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” Then He recurs
again to the fact that one of their number must be excepted. The presence
of the traitor seems to have cast a shadow upon Him, but He tells them
beforehand that the Scriptures had predicted his defection, so that when
the betrayer delivered up their Master into the hands of His enemies the
faith of the other disciples might not falter. Finally, He encourages them
with the assurance that whosoever received His servants received Himself,
yea, received the One who had sent Him. What dignity that gave to their
calling!
“So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and
was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done
to you?” (

John 13:12).
It is important to note that it was from the “supper” that the Lord arose
when He girded Himself for the washing of His disciples’ feet; to it He now
returns. Typically, it was Christ’s
“leaving the place of communion, as if this were interrupted, until
His necessary work for them should renew it once more. He rises,
therefore, from supper, and girded Himself for a fresh service. His
sacrificial work is over, the shedding of blood is no more needed,
but only the washing of water; and here also not the ‘bath of
regeneration’ (

Titus 3:5 Gk.), but simply as He pointed out to.293
Peter, the washing of the feet. It is defilement contracted in the
walk that is in question; and He puts Himself at their feet to wash
them. As of old, Jehovah could say to Israel, ‘Thou hast made me
to serve with thy sins’ (

Isaiah 43:24), so may He still say to us;
but His unchanging love is equal to all possible demands upon it.
Notice here that all the disciples need it, and that thus He invites us
all to-day to put our feet into His hands continually, that they may
be cleansed according to His thought of what is cleanness, who
alone is capable of judging according to the perfect standard of the
Sanctuary of which He is indeed Himself the Light” (Numerical
Bible).
“So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set
down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?” This is
the sequel to what we read of in

John 13:4. There He had lain aside His
outer garments, here He resumes them. We believe that the former act had
a double symbolical meaning. First, we are told, “he riseth from supper”:
what supper is not here specified. Now, “supping” speaks of communion,
therefore when we are told “he riseth from supper and laid aside his
garments and took a towel and girded himself,” the first and deepest
meaning would be, He left His place on high, where from all eternity He
had been the Father’s delight, and with whom He had enjoyed perfect
communion as the Son, but now divested Himself of His outward glory and
took upon Him the form of a servant. But the “supper” is also the
memorial of His death, hence the rising from it and the laying aside of His
garments would suggest the additional thought of His resurrection. Now,
we believe that the Lord’s action here in

John 13:12 connects with and
is the sequel to the first thing pointed out above. The putting on of His
garments and the sitting down again would typify His return to the Father’s
presence, the resumption of His original glory (

John 17:5), and His
resting on high.
The Lord was about to explain (in part) and enforce what He had done
unto the disciples. Before pondering what He had to say, let us first admire
the calmness and deliberation which marked His actions. He quietly
resumed His garments (there is no hint of the apostles offering to assist
Him!) ere He seated Himself upon the couch or cushion, in His character
of Teacher and Lord, thus giving His disciples time to recover from their
surprise, collect their thoughts, and prepare themselves for what He was
about to say. This gives additional meaning to His posture. Note that ere.294
He began the “Sermon on the Mount” He first seated Himself (

Matthew
5:1); so it was while seated in a ship (

Matthew 13:2) He delivered the
seven parables of the kingdom; so while He “sat upon the mount of Olives”
(

Matthew 24:3), He gave His longest prophetic announcement; so here
He seated Himself before giving the great Paschal Discourse. The force of
these notices is seen by comparing them with

Luke 5:3: “He sat down
and taught the people.” Study the passages in John’s Gospel where Jesus
“stood,” and then where He “walked” — see

John 7:1 and our remarks.
“So after he had washed their feet,” that is, the feet of each of the twelve.
“We may learn an important lesson here as to dealing with
offenders in the assembly. The Lord knew all about Judas, and all
he was doing, but treated him as one of the apostles, till he
displayed himself. There may be suspicion about some individual,
that all is not right with him; but mere suspicion will not suffice to
act on. The matter must come clearly out, ere it can be rightly dealt
with. Were this remembered, cases of discipline, instead of causing
trouble in the assembly through lack of common judgment, would
be clear to all unprejudiced persons, and the judgments of the
assembly be accepted as correct. Has it not at times been the
reverse?” (Mr. C. E. Stuart).
“He said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?” Very searching
was this. In washing the feet of His disciples He had not only displayed a
marvellous humility, which He would have them take to heart, but He had
eared for them in holy love. Not only had He saved them, but He was
concerned about their fellowship with Himself, and for this, strict attention
must be paid to the walk. For when the feet are soiled, the dust of this
world must be removed. In His question the Lord illustrates how that it is
His way to teach us afterwards the good which He has already done for us;
as we grow up in Him in the truth, we are enabled to enter into and
appreciate more deeply what at first we understood but slightly. The same
grace which brought salvation teaches us, that
“denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly,
righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that
blessed hope” (

Titus 2:11, 12).
Deeply humbling is it to discover how little we understood the love and the
grace which had been acting on our behalf..295
“Know ye what I have done to you?” “This is a question which we
should often put to ourselves respecting what our Lord says, and
what He does to us. None of His works are ‘the unfruitful works of
darkness.’ They are all full of meaning. They are all intended to
serve a purpose, and a good one;, and it is of importance, in most
cases, that we should be aware of it. If we look at His work in the
light of His Word, and seek the guidance of His good Spirit, we
shall generally be able to discern His wise and benign purpose, even
in dispensations at first sight very strange and mysterious. He only
can explain His intentions, and He will not suffer His humble,
enquiring disciples to remain ignorant of them, if it be for their real
benefit to know them” (Dr. John Brown).
“Ye call me Master and Lord: and )re say well; for so I am”
(

John 13:13).
Beautifully does this bring out the fact that the Lord Jesus is “full of grace
and truth.” Though He had lust fulfilled for His disciples the most menial
office of a slave, yet He had not abandoned the place of authority and
supremacy. He reminds them that He is still their “Master and Lord,” and
that, by their own confession, for the word “call” here signifies address —
“Ye address Me as Master and Lord.” In thus owning the incarnate Son of
God they “did well.” Alas! that so many of His professing followers now
treat Him with so much less respect than that which He here commended in
the Twelve. Alas! that so many who owe their all for time and eternity to
that peerless One who was “God manifest in flesh,” speak of Him simply as
“Jesus.” Jesus is the Lord of glory, and surely it is due the dignity and
majesty of His person that this should be recognized and owned, even in
our very references to Him. We do not expect that those who despise and
reject Him should speak of Him in any more exalting terms than “The
Nazarene,” or “Jesus”; but those who have been, by amazing grace, given
“an understanding, that we may know him that is true” (

1 John 5:20)
ought gladly to confess Him as “The Lord Jesus Christ”!
“Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.” Surely this is
sufficient for any humble-minded Christian. If our blessed Redeemer says
we “say well” when we address Him as “Master and Lord,” how can we
afford to speak of Him in terms upon which His approval is not stamped?
Never once do we find the apostles addressing Him as “Jesus” while He
was with them on earth. When He exhorted them to make request of Him.296
for an increase of laborers He bade them, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of
the harvest” (

Matthew 9:38). When He sent forth the disciples to secure
the ass on which He was to ride into Jerusalem, He ordered them to say,
“The Lord hath need of him” (

Luke 19:31). When He required the use
of the upper room, it was
“The Lord saith, My time is at hand; I will therefore keep the
passover at thy house” (

Matthew 26:18).
Above, we have said that the apostles never once addressed our Lord
simply as “Jesus.” Mark, now, how they did refer to the Blessed One.
“And Peter answered him and said, LORD, if it be thou, bid me
come unto thee on the water” (

Matthew 14:28).
“And when his disciples James and John, saw this, they said, Lord,
wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and
consume them?” (

Luke 9:54).
“And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them
to say unto him, Lord, is it I?” (

Matthew 26:22).
“And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and
found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
saying, The Lord is risen indeed” (

Luke 24:33, 34).
“Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest”
(

John 14:5).
“That disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord”
(

John 21:7).
It may be objected that the Gospel narratives commonly refer to the Lord
as “Jesus.” It was Jesus who was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be
tempted of the Devil. It was Jesus who was moved with compassion as He
beheld the sufferings and sorrows of humanity. It was Jesus who taught the
people, etc. This is true, and the explanation is not far to seek. It was the
Holy Spirit of God who, through the pens of the Evangelists, thus referred
to Him, and this makes all the difference. What would be thought of one of
the subjects of king George referring to the reigning monarch of Great
Britian and saying, “I saw George pass through the city this morning”? If,
then, it would be utterly incongruous for one of his subjects to speak thus
of the king of England, how much more so is it to refer to the King of.297
kings simply as Jesus! But now, king George’s wife might refer to and
speak of her husband as “George” with perfect propriety. Thus it is that the
Holy Spirit refers to our Lord by His personal name in the Gospel
narratives.
Our modern hymns are largely responsible for the dishonor that is now so
generally cast upon that “worthy name” (

James 2:7), and we cannot but
raise our voice in indignant protest against much of the trash (for such it is)
that masquerades under the name of “hymns” and religious “songs.” It is
sad and shocking to hear Christians sing “There’s not a friend like the
lowly Jesus.” There is no “lowly Jesus” to-day. The One who once passed
through unparalleled humiliation has been “made both Lord and Christ”
(

Acts 2:36), and is now seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
If the earnest student will turn to the four Gospels and note how different
ones addressed the Son of God he will be well repaid. The enemies of
Christ constantly referred to Him as Jesus (

Matthew 26:71, etc.), and
so did the demons (

Mark 1:23, 24). Let us pray God to deliver us from
this flippant, careless, and irreverent manner of speaking of His Blessed
Son. Let us gladly own our Savior as “Lord” during the time of His
rejection by the world. Let us remember His own words:
“All should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that
honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent
him” (

John 5:23).
This is no trivial or trifling matter, for it stands written,
“By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt
be condemned” (

Matthew 12:37).
“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet”
(verse 14).
“Master” means teacher. The “teacher” is believed; the “Lord” is obeyed.
Here Christ proceeded to enforce and apply what He had just done unto
them. The connection is obvious, not only with what precedes, but also
with that which follows. If the Greatest could minister to the least, how
much more should the lesser minister to his equal! If the Superior waited
upon His admitted inferiors, much less should that inferior wait upon his
fellows. And mark the premise from which He draws this conclusion. He
did not say, “I am your teacher and Lord,” but “Ye call me teacher and
Lord.” It was from the confession of their own lips that He now proceeds.298
to instruct them. The order in which these titles occur is significant. First,
these disciples had heard Christ as “teacher,” and later they had come to
know Him as their “Lord.” But now Christ reverses the order: “If I then,
your Lord and teacher.” Why is this? Because this is the experimental
order now. We must surrender to Him as “Lord,” bowing to His authority,
submitting to His yoke, before He will teach us!
“Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (

John 13:14).
So they ought, and why had they not already done so? The supper-room
here was already supplied with water, pail, and towel. Why had not they
used them?

Luke 22:24 tells us,
“And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be
accounted the greatest.”
This occurred, be it noted, at this very time. It was then that the Savior
shamed them by saying,
“For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth?
is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as He that
serveth” (

Luke 22:27).
“Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Let us consider the application
of these words to ourselves:
“In discovering any stain that may be resting on the feet of our
brethren, we are not to blind ourselves to its presence, or to hide
from ourselves its character by calling evil good. If we are to be
honest and faithful in respect of ourselves, we shall be equally
honest and truthful in respect of others. On the other hand, we have
to beware of looking on the sins and failures of our brethren with
Pharisaic complacency and cold indifference. What condition is
more awful than that one who finds his joy in searching out
iniquities, and exulting in exposing and magnifying them when
discovered? Such, indeed, have reason to remember that with
whatsoever judgment they judge, they shall be judged; and that the
measure they mete out to others shall be meted out to themselves
again. How continually should we remind ourselves that the love of
the same gracious Lord that is toward us is toward our brethren
likewise, and that one of our chief privileges is the title to appeal to
it and intercede on their behalf, asking that sins, even of deepest.299
dye, may be removed; and that the deserved results of chastisement
and sorrow might be averted. So we should not be as those who
‘bite and devour one another,’ but be as those who ‘wash one
another’s feet’” (Mr. B. W. Newton).
Yes, a most needful word is this for us all, ever ready as we are to lift up
the skirts of a brother and say, “See how soiled his feet are”! But much
exercise of soul, much judging of ourselves, is needed for such lowly work
as this. I have to get down to my brother’s feet if I am to wash them! That
means that “the flesh” in me must be subdued. Let us not forget that
searching word in

Galatians 6:1, 2:
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual
restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself,
lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so
fulfill the law of Christ.”
I must be emptied of all sense of self-superiority before I can restore one
who is “out of the way.” It is the love of Christ which must constrain me as
I seek to be of help to one of those for whom He died. It is as “dear
children” (

Ephesians 5:1) that we are called upon to be “imitators of
God”! Very wonderful and blessed is what is here before us: when the
Lord appoints on earth a witness of His ways in Heaven, He tells us to
wash one another’s feet, and to love one another (

John 13:34). There
must be a patient forbearing with our brother’s faults, a faithful but tender
applying of the Word to his particular case, and an earnest and daily
intercession for him: these are the main things included in this figure of
“washing.” But let us not stop short at the “washing”: there must be the
“drying,” too! The service when done must be regarded as a service of the
Fast. The failure which called for it, is now removed, and therefore is to be
buried in the depths of oblivion. It ought never to be cast against the
individual in the future.
“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done
to you” (

John 13:15).
It is well known that not a few have regarded this as a command from
Christ for His followers now to practice literal foot-washing, yea, some
have exalted it into a “Church ordinance.” While we cannot but respect and
admire their desire to obey Christ, especially in a day when laxity and self-pleasing
is so rife, yet we are fully satisfied that they have mistaken our.300
Lord’s meaning here. Surely to insist upon literal foot-washing from this
verse is to miss the meaning as well as the spirit of the whole passage. It is
not with literal water (any more than the “water” is literal in

John 3:5;
4:14; 7:38) that the Lord would have us wash one another. It is the Word
(of which “water” is the emblem) He would have us apply to our fellow-disciples’
walk. This should not need arguing, but for the benefit of those
who think that the Lord here instituted an ordinance which He would have
practiced today, we would ask them to please weigh carefully the following
points:
That that which the Lord Jesus here did to His disciples looked beyond the
literal act to its deep symbolic significance is clear from these facts:
First, the Lord’s word to Peter, “What I do thou knowest not now”
(

John 13:7): certainly Peter knew that his feet had been literally
washed!
Second, the further words of Christ to Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou
hast no part with me” (

John 13:8): certainly there are multitudes of
believers that have a part with Christ who have never practiced foot-washing
as a religious ordinance.
Third, His words, “Ye are clean, but not all” (

John 13:10): Judas
could never have been thus excepted if only literal foot-washing was
here in view.
Fourth, His question, “Know ye what I have done to you?” clearly
intimates that the Lord’s act in washing the feet of the disciples had a
profound spiritual meaning.
Fifth, note that here in

John 13:15 the Lord does not say “Ye
should do what I have done unto you,” but “as I have done to you!”
Add to these considerations the fact that this incident is found in John’s
Gospel, which is, pre-eminently, the one which treats of spiritual
relationships under various figures — bread, water, Shepherd and
sheep, vine and the branches, etc., and surely all difficulty disappears.
“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to
you.” We take it that the force of these words of Christ is this: I have just
shown you how spiritual love operates: it ever seeks the good of its
objects, and esteems no service too lowly to secure that good. It reminds
us very much of the Lord’s words following His matchless picture of the.301
Good Samaritan who had compassion on the wounded traveler,
dismounting, binding up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, setting him
on His own beast, bringing him to the inn and taking care of him — “Go,
and do thou likewise” (

Luke 10:33-37). When real love is in exercise it
will perform with readiness difficult, despised, and even loathsome offices.
There are some services which are even more menial and repulsive than the
washing of feet, yet, on occasion, the service of love may call for them. It
should hardly be necessary to add, that Christians living in Oriental lands,
where sandals are worn, should be ready to wash literally the feet of a
weary brother, not simply as an act of courtesy, but as a service of love.
“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to
you.” We believe that one thing included in this comparative “as” is that it
looks back to a detail in

John 13:4 which is usually overlooked: it was
as girded with a towel that Christ washed the feet of His disciples, and that
which was signified by the “towel” applies to us. The “towel” was that
with which Christ was girded: it bespoke the servant’s attitude. Then the
Lord used that with which He was girded upon their feet: emblematically,
this was applying to them the humility which marked Him. Mr. Darby tells
us that it was a linen towel which was employed, and in the New
Testament “linen” signifies “the righteousness of saints” (

Revelation
19:8, R.V.). It was His own spotless love which fitted Him to approach His
disciples and apply the Word to them. How searching is all of this for us! If
we would imitate Him in this labor of love we must ourselves be clothed
with humility, we must employ nothing but the Word, and we must have on
the linen towel of practical righteousness to dry with.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his
lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him”
(

John 13:16).
The Lord acts as His own interpreter. He here gives plain intimation of the
meaning of His symbolic action. He draws an important lesson from what
He had just done, the more needful because He was about to withdraw
from them. It would fare ill with His people if their leaders were found
disputing among themselves, devouring one another. Surrounded as they
were by Judaism and Paganism, lambs in the midst of wolves, much
depended upon their humility and mutual helpfulness. Much needed by
every Christian, and especially by those engaged in Christian service, is that.302
word of Christ’s, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek
and lowly in heart.”
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord,
neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” That this is of more
than ordinary importance is evidenced by the solemn and emphatic “Verily,
verily” with which the Lord prefaced it. Moreover, the fact that at a later
point in this same discourse the Lord said to His apostles,
“Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not
greater than his lord” (

John 15:20),
shows that it is one which is specially needed by his ambassadors. How
many a dark page of “Church History” had never been written if the
ministers of Christ had heeded this admonition! How vain the pretensions
of those who have lorded it over God’s heritage in the light of this
searching word! Sad indeed have been the manifestations of Nicolaitanism
in every age. Even before the last of the apostles left this world he had to
say, “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence
among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9); and the same spirit is
far from being dead today.
“If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (

John 13:17). If
ye know what “things”?
First, the vital need of placing our feet in the hands of Christ for
cleansing (

John 13:8).
Second, the owning of Christ as “Master and Lord” (

John 13:13).
Third, the need of washing one another’s feet (

John 13:14).
Fourth, the performing of this ministry as Christ performed it — in
lowly love (

John 13:15). Now, said our Savior, If ye know “these
things,” happy or blessed are ye if ye do them. A mere speculative
knowledge of such things is of no value. An intellectual apprehension,
without the embodiment of them in our daily lives, is worse than
useless. It is both significant and solemn to note that the one Christ
termed a wise man that built his house upon the rock is, “Whoso
heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them” (

Matthew 7:24). No
one knows more truth than the Devil, and yet none works more evil!
“If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”.303
“It has been well remarked that our Lord does not say, ‘Happy are
ye if these things be done to you,’ but ‘Happy are ye if ye do them.’
We are apt to suppose that we should be happy if men loved us,
and were ready on every occasion to serve us. But, in the judgment
of Christ, it would more conduce to our happiness that our hearts
were like His, full of love to all our brethren, and our hands like
His, ever ready to perform to them even the humblest offices of
kindness. We often make ourselves unhappy by thinking that we are
not treated with the deference and kindness to which we consider
ourselves entitled. If we would be really happy, we must think more
of others and less of ourselves. True happiness dwells within; and
one of its leading elements is the disinterested self-sacrificing love
which made the bosom of Jesus its constant dwelling-place” (Dr.
John Brown).
“I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen”
(

John 13:18).
The immediate reference is to what the Lord had said in the previous verse.
Just as in

John 13:10 He had said to the twelve, “Ye are dean,” and
then added, “but not all,” so after saying, “Happy are ye if ye do them,” He
at once says, “I speak not of you all.” Faithfulness required Him to make
an exception. There was no happiness for Judas; before him lay “the
blackness of darkness for ever.” When Christ said, “I know whom I have
chosen” it is evident that He was not speaking of election to salvation, but
to the apostolate. Where eternal election is in view the Scriptures
uniformally ascribe it to God the Father. But where it is a question of
ministry or service, in the New Testament, the choice and the call usually
proceed from the Lord Jesus — see

Matthew 9:30;

Matthew 20:1;

Matthew 28:18-20;

Acts 1:24;

Acts 26:16;

Ephesians 4:11,
etc. His words here in

John 13:18 are parallel with those in

John
6:70: “Have not I chosen you twelve? and one of you is a devil?”
“But that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with
me, hath lifted up his heel against me” (

John 13:18).
As to why the Lord Jesus chose Judas to be one of the twelve, see our
remarks on

John 6:70, 71. Very remarkable is this statement here in the
light of the context. Christ had washed the feet of the very one whose heel
was raised against Himself! Into what depths of humiliation did the Son of
God deign to descend! He now foretells the defection of Judas, and.304
announces that this was but the fulfillment of the prophetic Word. The
reference is to the 41st Psalm, which exposes the awful character of the
betrayer; the 109th Psalm makes known the outcome of his treachery.
Christ then had suffered the traitor to remain with Him that the Scriptures
might be fulfilled; but as soon as the “sop” had been given to Him, Christ
would say, “That thou doest, do quickly” (

John 13:27).
“How wondrous the patience which, knowing all from the
beginning, bore all to the end, without a frown or sign of shrinking
from the traitor! But so much the more withering must be the
sentence of judgment when it comes from His lips, the Lord of
glory, the hated and despised of men” (Mr. W. Kelly).
“He that eateth bread with me, hath lifted up his heel against me.” The
local reference in Psalm 41 is to what David suffered at the hands of
Ahithophel, but that was but a foreshadowrnent and type of what the
Savior suffered from Judas. In now quoting from this prophetic Psalm the
Lord Jesus evidenced His Divine knowledge of what lay before Him, and
testified to the inestimable value of the Scriptures. Nothing proves more
conclusively their Divine origin than the accurate and literal fulfillment of
their prophecies. Predictions were made of events which were not to
transpire till hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years afterwards,
minute details are furnished, and the specific accomplishment of them can
only be accounted for on the one ground that He who knows the end from
the beginning was their Author.
The wording of this prophecy about Judas is very striking.
“His heel! the most contemptible rejection possible: was it not such
to sell the Lord of glory for the price of a slave? It was as if he
would inflict upon Christ the Serpent’s predicted wound
(

Genesis 3:15)? (F. W. Grant.)
“Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye
may believe that I am” (

John 13:19).
What care did He evince for His own! What blessed proof was this of His
loving them “unto the end”! Christ would here assure the disciples that
everything which befell Him, even that which was most staggering to faith,
was but the strict fulfillment of what had long ago been recorded. He was
the great One typified and prophesied throughout the Old Testament, and
He now assures the apostles of Judas’ perfidy before he went forth to.305
bargain with the priests, that they might know He had not trusted in him,
nor had He been deceived by him, as had David by Ahithophel! Thus,
instead of the apostles being stumbled by the apostasy of one of their
number, it should strengthen their faith in every written word of God to
know that that very Word had long before announced what they were on
the eve of witnessing. Moreover, their faith in Christ should be
strengthened, too. By calling their attention to the fulfillment of Psalm 41
He showed them that He was the Person there marked out; that He was a
true Prophet, announcing the certain accomplishment of David’s prediction
before it came to pass; and that He was the great “I am” who “searcheth
the hearts and trieth the reins of the children of men,” being fully
acquainted with their secret thoughts and most carefully concealed designs.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I
send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent
me” (

John 13:20).
At first sight there appears to be no connection between this verse and the
ones preceding, yet a little thought will soon discover the link between
them. The Lord had been exhorting His disciples to follow the example
which He had given, assuring them they would be happy if they did so.
Then He announced the apostasy of Judas. Now He informs them that their
vocation was by no means affected by the defection of the betrayer.
“The whole circle of the apostles seemed to be disorganized by the
treachery of Judas; and therefore the Lord confirms the faithful in
their election, and that very fittingly by a repetition of that earlier
promise (

Matthew 10:42) on which all depended” (Stier).
It was the Lord comforting His own and most graciously establishing their
hearts by turning their attention away from the traitor to their Master, who
abides forever the same, as does the Father.
Judas had been one of the twelve whom the Lord had sent forth to preach
the Gospel and to work miraculous signs in His name (Matthew 10).
Would then all that he had done as an apostle be discredited, when his real
character became known? This important question here receives answer
from our Lord: “He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me.” The
Lord knew how apt His people are to despise the work done if the worker
proves to be unworthy; therefore does He teach us to look beyond the
instrument to the One who sent him. The Lord has the right to appoint.306
whom He pleases. If, then, the message is from God’s Word, reject it not
because the messenger proves a fraud. What matters it to me whether the
postman be black or white, pleasant or unpleasant, so long as he hands me
the right letter?
“He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth
me receiveth him that sent me.” There is another important principle here.
The apostles were the ambassadors of the Lord, and in the person of an
ambassador the sovereign himself is received or set at naught. As His
ambassadors, how circumspectly ought each of His servants to walk! And
as His ambassadors, how dutiful and respectful in its reception should the
Church be of them! As He was sent from the Father, so they were sent
from Him. By this gracious analogy He arms them with authority and
inspires them with courage. Thus the Lord fully identifies them with
Himself.
The following questions need studying to prepare for our next
lesson: —
1. What three things are dearly implied in verse 22?
2. Why did not Peter ask the Lord directly, verse 24?
3. Why did Jesus say to Judas, verse 27?
4. In how many respects was the Son of man glorified at the Cross,
verse 31?
5. What attributes of Cod were glorified at the Cross, verse 31?
6. In what sense was it a “new commandment,” verse 34?
7. What is the meaning of verse 36?.307
CHAPTER 47
CHRIST’S WARNINGS

John 13:21-38
Below is an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us: —
1. The betrayer and his identification, verses 21-26.
2. The departure of Judas and the thoughts of the Eleven, verses 27-30.
3. A threefold glorification, verses 31-32.
4. The new commandment, verse 34.
5. The badge of Christian discipleship, verse 35.
6. Peter’s questions, verses 36-37.
7. Christ’s warning prediction, verse 38.
We have entitled this chapter Christ’s Warnings: it scarcely covers
everything in the passage, yet it emphasizes that which is most prominent
in it. At the beginning of our present section Christ warns Judas; at the
close, He warns Peter. In between, there are some gracious and tender
instructions for the beloved disciples, and these too partake very largely of
the nature of warnings. He warns them against misinterpreting the nature
of His death,

John 13:31-32. He warns them of His approaching
departure,

John 13:33. He warns them of their need of a commandment
that they should “love one another”,

John 13:34. He warns them that
only by the exercise of love toward each other would it be made manifest
that they were His disciples,

John 13:35.
Our passage opens with a solemn word identifying the Savior’s betrayer.
This betrayer had been plainly announced in Old Testament prophecy:
“He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me”
(

Psalm 41:9).
“A man’s foes,” said the Lord, “are they of his own household”
(

Matthew 10:36), and fearfully was this verified in His own case. A
“familiar friend” became a familiar fiend. How this exposes the error of.308
those who suppose that all that fallen man needs is example and
instruction. Judas enjoyed both, yet was not his evil heart moved. For three
years had he been not only in the closest possible contact, but in the nearest
intimacy with the Savior. His had been a favored place in the innermost
circle of the Twelve. Not only had he listened to the daily preaching of
Christ as He taught the people, not only had he witnessed most, at least, of
His wondrous miracles, but he had also gazed upon the perfections of
Christ in His private life. And yet, after all this, Judas was unmoved and
unchanged. Nothing could more forcefully demonstrate our Lord’s
utterance, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of
God”! So near to Christ, yet unsaved! What a challenge for every heart!
The case of Peter points a most solemn warning of quite another character.
Outwardly Judas posed as a disciple of Christ; inwardly Simon was a
believer in Him. The one exhibits the sin and madness of hypocrisy; the
other the danger and sad results of self-confidence. It was to Peter that the
Lord said, “The spirit (the new nature) indeed is willing, but the flesh (the
natural man) is weak.” But this utterance was never intended as an excuse,
behind which we might take refuge when we fail and fall; but was given as
a lasting warning to have “no confidence in the flesh” (

Philippians 3:3).
The Holy Spirit has faithfully recorded the sad defection of one who was
especially dear to the heart of the Savior, that all Christians who follow
Him might seek grace from God to avoid the snare into which he fell.
From a human view, Peter failed at his strongest point. By nature he was
bold and courageous. Probably there was not a stouter heart among the
apostles. He quailed not before the marvellous scene on the Mount of
Transfiguration. He it was who stepped out of the ship and started to walk
across the waves to Christ. And he it was who drew his sword in the
Garden, and smote the high priest’s servant as the officers arrested his
beloved Master. No coward was Peter. And yet he trembled in the
presence of a maid, and when taxed with being a disciple of Christ, denied
it with an oath! How is this to be explained?
Only on the ground that in order to teach him and us the all-important
lesson, that if left to ourselves, the strongest is as weak as water. It is in
conscious weakness that our strength lies (

2 Corinthians 12:10). Peter
was fully assured that though all should be offended yet would not he
(

Mark 14:29). And, without a doubt, he fully meant what he said. But
he did not know himself; he had not learned, experientially, the exceeding.309
deceitfulness of the human heart; he knew not as yet that without the
upholding power and sustaining grace of the Lord he could do nothing
(

John 15:5). O that we might learn from him.
“We fancy sometimes, like Peter, that there are some things we
could not possibly do. We look pityingly upon others who fall, and
plume ourselves in the thought that at any rate we should not have
done so. We know nothing at all. The seeds of every sin are latent
in our hearts, even when renewed, and they only need occasion, or
carelessness, or the withdrawal of God’s grace for a season, to put
forth an abundant crop. Like Peter, we think we can do wonders
for Christ, and like Peter, we learn by bitter experience that we
have no might and power at all. A humble sense of our own innate
weakness, a constant dependency on the Strong for strength, a
daily prayer to be held up, because we cannot hold up ourselves —
these are the true secrets of safety” (Bishop Ryle).
Surely the outstanding lesson for us in connection with the fall of Peter is
this:
“Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall”
(

1 Corinthians 10:12).
“When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified,
and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray
me” (

John 13:21).
The Lord had been ministering to His disciples, teaching and comforting
them. He had spoken of their future, but in the midst of these anticipations
a dark shadow falls upon Him, troubling Him. Already had He hinted at it,
now He proceeds to testify more plainly to the traitor who was among the
Twelve. The Lord was “troubled in spirit.” It is remarkable that this is
mentioned most frequently by the very Evangelist whose special design it
was to portray the Lord Jesus as God manifest in flesh — cf.

John
11:33, 38; 12:27. These statements prove the reality of His humanity,
showing that He had a real human soul as well as body. They also prove
that it is no infirmity or imperfection to be troubled by the presence of evil.
Christ was no stoic: He felt keenly all that was contrary to God. Really,
none was so truly and so completely sensitive as He. He was the Man of
sorrows, and it is just because He has Himself passed through this scene,.310
suffering within at every step of the way, that He is able to be touched with
“the feeling of our infirmities.”
“When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” It is well to
remind ourselves that what the Lord Jesus endured upon the Cross was but
the climax and completion of His sufferings. Throughout His life He
suffered at the hands of Satan, His enemies, and His friends. He felt acutely
the unbelief and hostility of the scribes and Pharisees. His tearful lament
over Jerusalem evidences the depths of His anguish over Israel’s rejection.
Here it was the bitter sorrow of seeing one of the apostles deliberately
becoming an apostate. Nothing wounds more deeply than ingratitude; and
that one, who had been a constant companion with Him for three years,
should now raise his heel against Him, was a sore trial. If Judas was
unmoved, the Lord was not. Seeing no beauty in Christ after all he had
heard and witnessed during years of closest contact with Him, unaffected
by His marvellous grace to sinners, caring only for paltry gain, dominated
by self, and the rebuke he had received in Simon’s house rankling within,
he turned against his Master and arranged to sell Him to His enemies. No
wonder the Lord was “troubled” as He thought of such deceit, treachery,
and cupidity. He had said “Ye are clean, but not all,” and still Judas
retained his place, and gave no sign of retiring.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” There is a
melancholy emphasis on the pronoun here: one of you at the table with Me;
one of you whose feet I have just washed; one of you who have had the
high honor of being My first ambassadors, shall take advantage of your
intimacy with Me and knowledge of My ways, to guide the enemy to My
place of retirement, and deliver Me into the hands of those who seek My
life. He was “troubled” by the enormity of the crime, and no doubt, too,
over the awful doom which lay before Judas.
How deeply “troubled” the Savior was we may learn from His words in
Psalm 55: “Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not
from her streets. For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could
have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself
against me;, then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man
mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel
together and walked unto the house of God in company” (verses 11-14).
How vividly this brings out before us the grief with which the Man of.311
sorrows was “acquainted”! How deeply His holy soul was stirred, we may
learn from the solemn but righteous imprecations which He called down
upon the base ingrate in

Psalm 109:
“Let his days be few; and let another take his office; let his children
be fatherless, and his wife a widow” (verses 8, 9), etc.
“Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he
spake” (

John 13:22).
Three things are made very evident by this verse: one thing about the
disciples, one about Judas, and one about the Lord Himself.
First, it is plain that what Christ had said in

John 13:18 had made no
impression upon the Eleven. And this was the most natural. No doubt their
minds were so occupied with what the Savior had just done for them that
they had scarcely recovered from their surprise. They were so impressed by
His amazing condescension that His statement “He that eateth bread with
me hath lifted up his heel against me” fell upon ears that heeded Him not.
But now He speaks more plainly and directly, and they exchanged puzzled
glances with each other, wondering which of them it was to whom He had
referred.
Second, the fact that “The disciples looked one on another, doubting of
whom he spake” is proof positive that Judas had succeeded in concealing
his turpitude from his fellows. His outward conduct had given the other
apostles no occasion to suspect him. To what lengths cannot hypocrisy go!
Matthew tells us that when Christ announced to the Twelve that one of
them should betray Him,
“They were exceedingly sorrowful, and began every one of them to
say, Lord, is it I?” (

Matthew 26:22),
upon which Matthew Henry says:
“They are to be commended for their charity, in that they are more
jealous of themselves than of each other. It is the law of charity to
hope the best, because we assuredly know, therefore we may justly
expect, more evil of ourselves than of our brethren. They are also
to be commended for their acquiescence in what Christ said. They
trusted, as we would do well to do, more to His words, than to
their own hearts, and therefore do not say, ‘It is not — it cannot be.312
— I’; but ‘Lord, is it I?’ See if there be such a way of wickedness,
such a root of bitterness in me, and discover it to me, that I may
pluck up the root, and stop up that way.”
Boldly playing his role of duplicity to the last, Judas dares to ask, “Master,
is it I?” (

Matthew 26:25) — a clear proof, though, that he was unsaved,
for no man can say Lord Jesus but by the Holy Spirit (

1 Corinthians
12:3).
Third, the fact that the apostles were perplexed, wondering to whom the
Lord had referred, brings out most blessedly the infinite patience with
which Christ had borne with the son of perdition. Throughout His
ministerial life He must have treated Judas with the same condescending
grace, gentleness, kindness, as the Eleven. He could not have exhibited any
aversion against him, or the others would have noticed it, and known now
of whom He spake. How this tells of the perfections of our Savior! His
kindness ill-requited, His favors unappreciated, His holy soul loathing such
a sink of iniquity so near to Him — yet He bowed to the sovereign will and
authoritative word of the Father, and patiently bore this trial.
“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples,
whom Jesus loved” (

John 13:23).
Here is one of those striking contrasts in which this Gospel abounds, and a
most blessed one it is. Our attention is diverted for a moment from the base
treachery and horrible hatred of Judas to one whom Christ had attracted,
whose heart had been won by His beauty, and who now affectionately
reposed on the Savior’s breast. It is blessed, and an evident mark of the
Holy Spirit’s guidance to see how John here refers to himself. It was not
“one who loved Jesus,” though truly he did; but “one of his disciples whom
Jesus loved.” Nor does he mention his own name — love never advertises
itself.
“Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it
should be of whom he spake” (

John 13:24).
This is one of many statements in the New Testament which effectually
disposes of the Roman Catholic figment that Peter was the pope of the
apostolate. As one of the older Protestant writers well said, “So far from
Peter having any primacy among the apostles, he here uses the intercession
of John.” There was no doubt a moral reason why Peter put his question
through John, instead of asking it direct. Is it not clear from

John 13:6,.313
8, 37 that Peter’s state of soul was not altogether right before God? And,
does not his fearful fall, that very evening, supply still further proof?
Matthew tells us that after the arrest of the Savior, Peter “followed him
afar off unto the high priests’ palace” (

Matthew 26:38), and a sense of
distance began to make itself felt in Peter’s soul even here — there was a
measure of reserve between himself and the Lord.
“He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?”
(

John 13:25).
The contrast here between John and Peter is very noticeable. John was
close to the Lord: affection had drawn him there. He was so near to Christ
and his spirit so unclouded, he could look up into the face of the Savior
and ask Him any question. This is the blessed portion and privilege of
every Christian. Alas! that so many are like Peter on this occasion — ready
to turn to a brother, rather than to the Lord Himself. Why is it that when
the average Christian meets with some difficulty in his reading of the
Word, or some problem in his spiritual life, he says, “I will ask or write
brother so-and-so?” Why not enjoy the blessed privilege of referring
directly to the Lord Jesus? It is a question of intimacy with Him, and that is
very searching. While there is any self-confidence, as in Peter’s ease, or any
known hindrance in my spiritual life, that at once places me at a moral
distance from Christ. But is it not blessed to see that, at the end, Peter
came to the same place which John is seen occupying here?
“And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou
knowest that I love thee” (

John 21:17).
He threw open his heart. What was it but saying, Lord, there was a time
when I would not ask You questions, but now I can invite You to look
into my heart! Let us then come before Him now, asking Him to search our
hearts and put His finger on anything that hinders us from having direct
access to Him in everything. Let us ever be on the watch that we do not
enjoy a greater intimacy with some brother than with the Lord Himself.
“Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have
dipped it” (

John 13:26).
It seems clear from what follows that these words of Christ must have been
whispered to John or spoken in such a low tone that the other disciples
were unable to catch them. At last the Lord Jesus identified the betrayer.
The mask of hypocrisy which he had worn had thoroughly deceived the.314
apostles, but He with whom “all things are naked and open” cannot be
imposed upon. While man looked on the outward appearance, He looks
upon the heart; so He now unmasks the false disciple, and shows him to be
— what He always knew, though none else suspected that he was — a
traitor.
“And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the
son of Simon” (

John 13:26).
The sign given by Christ to identify the betrayer was suggestive and
solemn. “It was a mark of honor for the host to give a Portion to one of the
guests. The Lord had appealed to the conscience of Judas in

John
13:21, now He appeals to his heart” (Companion Bible). The “sop” was,
most probably, a piece of unleavened bread, now dipped in the sauce
prepared for the eating of the paschal lamb. That Judas accepted it shows
the unthinkable lengths to which he carried his hypocrisy. Determined as he
was to perpetrate the foulest treachery, yet he hereby renews his pledge of
friendship. It’ makes us think of the “Hail Master” and the “kiss” when he
was in the act of delivering Him to His enemies. But how wonderful, how
blessed, the meekness of our Lord; surely none but He could have acted
thus. In complete command of Himself, no sign of ill-will toward the one
who had already taken counsel with the chief priests, He gives him the sop.
Closely did this correspond with the prophetic declaration already referred
to, “He that eateth with me hath lifted up his heel against me.”
“And after the sop Satan entered into him” (

John 13:27).
The receiving of the sop, expressive of friendship, ought to have broken
him down in an agony of repentance; but it did not. He was like those
mentioned in

Hebrews 6:8: ground on which the rain came oft, but
which instead of bringing forth herbs, bore only thorns and briars, whose
end is to be burned. It is remarkable to note that not until now are we told
of Satan’s entrance into him. Equally striking is it to observe that as soon
as he had received the “sop” the Enemy took full possession of his only too
willing victim.
“Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly”
(

John 13:27).
Fearful words were these. Space for repentance had now passed forever.
His doom was sealed. But what else lay behind these words of Christ? We
believe it was the formal announcement of the Savior surrendering Himself.315
to the Father’s will. It was as though He said, I am ready to be led as a
lamb to the slaughter; go, Judas, and do that which you are so anxious to
do; I will not withstand thee! But again; may we not regard this word of
Christ as in one sense parallel with the one He had addressed to the Devil
at the close of the great temptation. There was a needs-be for Him to be
tempted of the Devil for forty days; but when that needs-be was fully met,
He said, “Get thee hence, Satan” (

Matthew 4:10). So, in order that
Scripture might be fulfilled, it was necessary for there to be a Judas in the
apostolate, so that he could eat with Christ. But now that prophecy had
been accomplished, now that the traitor’s heel had been lifted against his
Master, Christ says, “Depart”! Moreover, was not this the formal dismissal
of Judas from the Lord’s service? Christ had called him to a place in the
apostolate: for three years He had used him: now He announces his
discharge; later, another shall “take his bishoprick.” Finally, we believe it
can be established from the other Gospels that it was right after this that
the Lord instituted His own “supper” as a lasting memorial of Himself; but
before doing so He first banishes the traitor, for that “supper” is for His
own only.
“Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto
him” (

John 13:28).
At this point John, at least, and most probably Peter also, knew who it was
who should betray their beloved Master, yet in the light of this verse it is
evident that none of them suspected that the act of treachery was so soon
to be perpetrated. None of them perceived the awfulness of the issues then
pending.
“For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus
had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against
the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor” (

John
13:29).
“These thoughts of the disciples were mistaken ones, but they do them no
discredit. They are excusable and even praiseworthy. They indicate the
operation of the charity which thinketh no evil, but is ever disposed to put
on words and actions the most favorable construction they will reasonably
admit. The mistakes of charity are wiser and better than the surmises of
censoriousness, even when they turn out to be according to the truth. Judas
had all along been a bad man; but hitherto he had given no such evidence
of his unprincipled character as would have warned his fellow-disciples to.316
entertain suspicions of him. Knowing that he was the treasurer and steward
of this little society, they supposed that the words of the Master might refer
to his speedily obtaining something which would be requisite for the feast
of the passover, which lasted for a week; that he should immediately give
some alms to the poor.
“It is plain from these words that our Lord and His disciples were
in the habit of giving, especially at the time of the great festivals,
out of their scanty pittance, something to those more destitute than
themselves. Their ‘deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their
liberality’: and by His example He has taught us not merely that it is
the duty of those who may have but little to spare to give of that
little to those who have still less, but that religious observances are
gracefully connected with deeds of mercy and alms-giving. He
joined humility with piety in His practice as well as in His doctrine;
and in this He hath left us an example that we should follow His
steps” (Dr. John Brown).
To these remarks we may add that the fact the disciples had supposed
Judas had gone to purchase things for “the feast” is clear proof that the
Lord did not work miracles in order to procure the food needed by Himself
and His apostles. It also shows that they did not beg, but managed their
temporal affairs with prudence and economy (cf.

John 4:8).
But far different were the base designs of Judas from what the apostles had
charitably supposed.
“It was not to buy things needful, but to sell the Lord and Master; it
was no preparation for the feast, but that to which it, not they, had
ever looked onward — the fulfillment of God’s mind and purpose
in it, though it were the Jews crucifying their own Messiah, by the
hands of lawless men; it was not that Judas should give to the poor,
but that He should who was rich yet for our sakes became poor,
that we through His poverty might be made rich” (Bible Treasury).
“He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was
night” (

John 13:30).
There is something more here, something deeper, than a mere reference to
the time of the day. As Judas went forth on his dastardly errand, there then
began that “hour” of the Power of darkness (

Luke 22:53), when God
suffered His enemies to put out the Light of life. So, too, it was “night” in.317
the soul of Judas, for he had turned his back on “the light.” Like Cain he
went out from the “presence of the Lord”; like Baalim he loved “the wages
of unrighteousness”; like Ahithophel he went to betray his “familiar friend.”
It was night: “Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are
evil”: fitting time was it, then, for the son of perdition to perpetrate his
dark deed! “Immediately” he went: his feet were “swift to shed blood”!
“Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of
man glorified” (

John 13:31).
A most remarkable word was this. The Lord Jesus spoke of His death, but
He regarded it neither as a martyrdom nor as a disgrace. There is nothing
quite like this in the other Gospels. Here, as ever, John gives us the
highest, the Divine viewpoint of things. The Savior contemplates His death
on the shameful tree as His glorification.
“It seems very strange that, in these circumstances, Jesus should
say, ‘Now — now is the Son of man glorified.’ It would not have
been wonderful if, on the banks of Jordan after His baptism, with
the mystic dove descending and abiding on Him, and the voice of
the Eternal pealing from the open heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son,
in whom I am well pleased’; or, on the summit of the Mount of
Transfiguration, when ‘His face did shine as the sun, and His
garments became white as the light,’ and Moses and Elijah
appeared with Him in glory, and a voice came forth from the cloud
of glory. ‘This is my beloved Son, hear him,’ our Lord had said, in
holy exaltation, ‘Now is the Son of man glorified’! But, when these
words were spoken, what was before the Redeemer but the deepest
abasement, and the severest sufferings — heavy accusations — a
condemnatory sentence — insults — infamy — the fellowship of
thieves — the agonies of death — the lonely sepulcher! How does
He, in these circumstances, say, ‘Now is the Son of man glorified’“
(Dr. John Brown).
But wherein was Christ’s death on the Cross His glorification? Notice,
first, that He said, “Now is the Son of man glorified.” It was the Son of
God as incarnate who was “glorified” on the Cross. But how? Wherein?
First, in that He there performed the greatest work which the whole
history of the entire universe ever witnessed, or ever will witness. For it the
centuries waited; to it the centuries look back..318
Second, because there He reversed the conduct of the first man. The first
Adam was disobedient unto death, the last Adam was obedient unto death,
even the death of the Cross. The glory of man is to glorify God; and never
was God more glorified than when His own incarnate Son laid down His
life in submission to His command (

John 10:18); and never was human
nature so glorified as when the Son of man thus glorified God. Third,
because through death He destroyed him who had the power of death, that
is the devil (

Hebrews 2:14). What a notable achievement was this, that
One made in the likeness of sin’s flesh should accomplish the utter defeat
of the arch-enemy of God and man! Fourth, because at the Cross was paid
the ransom-price which purchased for Himself all the elect of God. What
glory for the Son of man was this, that He should do what none other in all
the realm of creation could do (through immeasurable suffering and shame)
— “bring many sons unto glory.” The manner in which He wrought this
work also glorified Him: He was a willing sufferer; the price was cheerfully
paid; He was led, not driven, as a lamb to the slaughter; He endured the
Cross, despising the shame; and not until offended justice and a broken law
were fully satisfied did He cry, “It is finished.” Finally, by virtue of His
Cross-work, a glory was acquired by the Mediator: there is now a glorified
Man at God’s right hand (

John 17:22).
“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a
name which is above every name” (

Philippians 2:10).
“And God is glorified in him” (

John 13:31).
What a theme! One which no human pen can begin to do justice to. The
Cross-work of Christ was not only the basis of our salvation, and the
glorification of the Son of man Himself, but it was also the brightest
manifestation of the glory of God. Every attribute of Deity was
superlatively magnified at Calvary.
The power of God was exceedingly glorified at the Cross. There the kings
of the earth and the rulers took counsel together against God and against
His Christ; there the terrible enmity of the carnal mind and the desperate
wickedness of the human heart did their worst; there the fiendish malignity
of Satan was put forth to its fullest extent. But God had laid help upon One
that is mighty (

Psalm 89:19). None was able to take His life from the
Savior (

John 10:18). After man and Satan had done their worst, the
Lord Jesus remained complete master of Himself, and not until He saw fit
did He lay down His life of Himself: never was the power of God more.319
illustriously displayed. Christ was crucified “through weakness” (

2
Corinthians 13:4), offering no resistance to His enemies: but it is written,
“The weakness of God is stronger than men” (

1 Corinthians 1:25), and
gloriously was that demonstrated at the Cross, when the power of God
sustained the humanity of Christ as He endured His outpoured wrath.
The justice of God was exceedingly glorified at the Cross. Of old He
declared that He “will by no means clear the guilty” (

Exodus 34:7), and
when the Lord laid on our blessed Substitute “the iniquities of us all” He
hung there as the Guilty One. And God is so strictly and immutably just
that He would not spare His own Son when He had made Him to be sin for
us. He would not abate the least mite of that debt which righteousness
demanded. The penalty of the broken law must be enforced, even though it
meant the slaying of His well Beloved. Therefore did the cry go forth,
“Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that
is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the Shepherd”
(

Zechariah 13:7).
The justice of God was more illustriously glorified by the propitiation
which was made by the Lord Jesus than if every member of the human race
were to suffer in Hell forever.
The holiness of God was exceedingly glorified at the Cross. He is
“of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity”
(

Habakkuk 1:13),
and when Christ was “made a curse for us” (

Galatians 3:13) the thrice
Holy One turned away from Him. It was this which caused the agonizing
Savior to cry, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Never did
God so manifest His hatred of sin as in the sufferings and death of His
Only-begotten. There He showed it was impossible for Him to be at peace
with that which had raised its defiant head against Him. All the honor due
to the holiness of God by all the holy angels, and all the cheerful obedience
and patient suffering of all the holy men who have ever existed, or ever will
exist, are nothing in comparison with the offering of Christ Himself in
order that every demand of God’s holiness, which sin had outraged, might
be fully met.
The faithfulness of God was exceedingly glorified at the Cross. God had
sworn, “The soul that sinneth it shall die,” and when the Sinless One.320
offered to receive the full and fearful wages of sin, God showed to all
heaven and earth that He had rather that the blood of His Fellow be spilt
than that one tittle of the Word should fail. In the Scriptures He had made
it known that His Son should be led as a lamb to the slaughter, that His
hands and His feet should be pierced, that He should be numbered with
transgressors, that He should be wounded for our transgressions and
bruised for our iniquities. These and many other predictions received their
exact fulfillment at Calvary, and their accomplishment there supplied the
greatest proof of all that God cannot lie.
The love of God was exceedingly glorified at the Cross.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son”
(

John 3:16).
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and
sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (

1 John 4:10).
“The light of the sun is always the same, but it shines brightest at
noon. The Cross of Christ was the noon-tide of everlasting love —
the meridian-splendor of eternal mercy. There were many bright
manifestations of the same love before; but they were like the light
of the morning that shines more and more unto the perfect day; and
that perfect day was when Christ was on the Cross, and darkness
covered all the land” (McLaurin).
O when we view God’s grand design,
To save rebellious worms,
How vengeance and compassion join
In their sublimest forms!
Our thoughts are lost in rev’rent awe —
We love and we adore;
The first archangel never saw
So much of God before!
Here each Divine perfection joins,
And thought can never trace,
Which of the glories brightest shines —
The justice or the grace.
“If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself,
and shall straightway glorify him” (

John 13:32)..321
“This verse may be paraphrased as follows: ‘If God the Father be
specially glorified in all His attributes by My death, He shall
proceed at once to place special glory on Me, for My personal
work, and shall do it without delay, by raising Me from the dead,
and placing Me at His right hand.’ It is the same idea that we have
in the seventeenth chapter more fully. ‘I have glorified thee on the
earth; now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own selfí” (Bishop
Ryle).
“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me:
and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now
I say to you” (

John 13:33).
Here for the first time the Lord Jesus addressed His disciples by this special
term of endearment, “little children.” It is striking to observe that the Lord
waited until after Judas had gone out before using it: teaching us that
unbelievers must not be addressed as God’s “children”! “Ye shall seek Me”
tells of their love for Him, as the “little children” had expressed His love
for them. “Whither I go, ye cannot come” seems to have a different force
from what it signified when addressed to the unbelieving Jews in

John
7:33. He declared to them, “I go unto him that sent me…. and where I am,
thither ye cannot come.” The reference is the same in

John 8:21. But
here the Savior was not speaking of His return to the Father, but of His
going to the Cross — thither “they” could not come. In His great work of
redemption He was alone. Just as in the type,
“There shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when
he (the high priest) goeth in to make an atonement” (

Leviticus
16:17),
so in the antitype.
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another;
as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (

John
13:34).
“The immense importance of Christian love cannot possibly be
shown more strikingly than the way that it is urged on the disciples
in this place. Here is our Lord leaving the world, speaking for the
last time, and giving His last charge to the disciples. The very first
subject He takes up and presses on them is the great duty of loving
one another, and that with no common love; but after the same.322
patient, tender, unwearied manner that He had loved them. Love
must needs be a very rare and important grace to be so spoken of!
The want of it must needs be plain proof that a man is no true
disciple of Christ. How vast the extent of Christian love ought to
be” (Bishop Ryle).
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have
loved you, that ye also love one another.” The nation now disappears. It is
no question of loving one’s neighbor, but of Christ’s disciples, and their
mutual love according to His love. Nor is it here activity of zeal, in quest of
sinners, blessed as that is; but the unselfish seeking of the good of saints, as
such, in lowliness of mind. The Law required love of one’s neighbor, which
was a fleshly relationship; Christ enjoins love to our brethren, which is a
spiritual relationship. Here, then, is the first sense in which this
“commandment” was a new one. But there is a further sense brought out
by John in his Epistle:
“A new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him
and in you” (

1 John 2:8).
Love had now been manifested, yea, personified, as never before. Christ
had displayed a love superior to the faults of its objects, a love which never
varied, a love which deemed no sacrifice too great. Scott has well observed
on this new commandment, “Love was now to be explained with new
clearness, enforced by new motives and obligations, illustrated by a new
example, and obeyed in a new manner.”
“By this shall all know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one
to another” (

John 13:35).
Love is the badge of Christian discipleship. It is not knowledge, nor
orthodoxy, nor fleshly activities, but (supremely) love which identifies a
follower of the Lord Jesus. As the disciples of the Pharisees were known
by their phylacteries, as the disciples of John were known by their baptism,
and every school by its particular shibboleth, so the mark of a true
Christian is love; and that, a genuine, active love, not in words but in
deeds. 1 Corinthians 13 gives a full exposition of this verse.
“Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus
answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but
thou shalt follow me afterwards” (

John 13:36)..323
How evident it is that even the Eleven had not grasped the fact that their
beloved Master was going to be taken from them! Often as He had spoken
to them of His death, it seems to have made no lasting impression upon
them. This illustrates the fact that men may receive much religious
instruction, and yet take in very little of it, the more so when it clashes with
their preconceptions. The Christian teacher needs much patience, and the
less he expects from his work, the less will he be disappointed. Christ’s
words here, “Whither I go” had a different meaning than in

John 13:33.
There He had spoken of taking His place alone in death: here He refers to
His return to the Father, therefore is He careful to add, “thou shalt follow
me afterwards.”
“Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will
lay down my life for thy sake” (

John 13:37).
Peter knew and really loved the Lord, but how little he as yet knew
himself! It was right to feel the Lord’s absence; but he should have heeded
better the mild, but grave, admonition that where Christ was going he was
not able to follow Him now; he should have valued the comforting
assurance that he should follow Him later. Alas! how much we lose now,
how much we suffer afterwards, through not laying to heart the deep truth
of Christ’s words! We soon see the bitter consequences in Peter’s history;
but we know, from the future words of our Lord in the close of this
Gospel, how grace would ensure in the end the favor, compromised by that
self-confidence at the beginning, which He here warned against.
“But we are apt to think most highly of ourselves, of our love,
wisdom, moral courage, and every other good quality, when we
least know and judge ourselves in God’s presence, as here we see
in Peter; who, impatient of the hint already given, breaks forth into
the self-confident question, ‘Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I
will lay down my life for thy sake.’ Peter therefore must learn, as
we also, by painful experience, what he might have understood
even better by subjection of heart, in faith, to the Lord’s words.
When He warns, it is rash and wrong for us to question; and
rashness of spirit is but the precursor of a fall in fact, whereby we
must be taught, if we refuse otherwise” (Bible Treasury).
“Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake?
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou
hast denied me thrice” (

John 13:38)..324
Once more the Lord manifests His omniscience, this time by foretelling the
fall of one of His own. Utterly unlikely did it seem that a real believer
would deny his Lord, and not only so, but at once follow it up with further
denials. Little likelihood did there appear that one who was so devoted to
Christ, who had enjoyed such unspeakable privileges, and who was
expressly warned that he should “watch and pray lest ye enter into
temptation,” should prove so unworthy. Yet incredible as it might appear
to the Eleven the Lord foresaw it all, and here definitely announces the
fearful sin of Peter. He knew that so far from Peter laying down his life for
His sake, he would that very night try to save his own life, by a cowardly
denial that he was His disciple. And yet the Lord did not cast him off. He
loved even Peter “unto the end,” and after His resurrection sought him out
and restored him to fellowship again. Truly such love passeth knowledge.
O that we were so fully absorbed with it that, for very shame, we might be
withheld from doing anything that would grieve it.
The following questions are to help the student to prepare for the lesson on
the first section of John 14: —
1. What is meant by “believe also in me,” verse 1?
2. What is meant by the “Father’s House,” verse 2?
3. How is Christ “preparing a place for us,” verse 3?
4. What is meant by “the way,” verse 4?
5. What did Philip mean, verse 8?
6. How did the disciples see the Father in Christ, verse 9?
7. What “works’ sake” did Christ refer to in verse 11?.325
CHAPTER 48
CHRIST COMFORTING HIS DISCIPLES

JOHN 14:1-11
Below is an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us: —
1. Christ’s call to faith in Himself, verse 1.
2. Christ’s teaching about Heaven, verse 2.
3. Christ’s precious promises, verses 3, 4.
4. Thomas’ question, verse 5.
5. Christ perfectly suited to us, verses 6, 7.
6. Philip’s ignorance, verse 8.
7. Christ’s reproof, verses 9-11.
It is in the fourteenth chapter of John that the Lord Jesus really begins the
Paschal Discourse, a discourse which for tenderness, depth, and
comprehensiveness is unsurpassed in all the Scriptures. The circumstances
under which it was delivered need to be steadily borne in mind. This heart-melting
Address of Christ was given to the Eleven on the last night before
He died, affording a manifestation of Him which has been strikingly likened
to the “glorious radiance of the setting sun, surrounded with dark clouds,
and about to plunge into darker, which, fraught with lightning, thunder,
and tempest, wait on the horizon to receive him.” Most blessedly do His
words here bring out the perfections of the God-man. Any other man, even
a man of superior strength of mind and kindliness of heart, placed, so far as
he could be placed in our Lord’s circumstances, would have had his mind
thrown into such a state of uncontrollable agitation, and most certainly
would have been too entirely occupied with his own sufferings and
anxieties to have any power or disposition to enter into and soothe the
sorrows of others. But though completely aware of all that awaited Him,
though feeling the weight of the awful load laid upon Him, though tasting
the bitter cup which He must drain, He not only retained full self-possession,
but took as deep an interest in the fears and sorrows of the.326
apostles as if He Himself had not been a sufferer. Instead of being occupied
with what lay before Himself, He spent the time in comforting His
disciples: He “loved them unto the end.”
During His public ministry and in His private intercourse with them, the
apostles had heard repeated statements from His lips concerning His
approaching sufferings and death, statements which appear to us simple
and plain, but which perplexed and amazed them. It is most charitable, and
perhaps most reasonable, to conclude that His disciples regarded His
references to His coming passion as parables, which were not to be
understood literally; and that, at any rate, He could not mean anything
inconsistent with His immediately restoring the kingdom to Israel. They
were fully convinced that He was the Messiah, and their only idea in
connection with the Messiah was that of an illustrious Conqueror, a
prosperous king; therefore, whatever was obscure in their Master’s
sayings, must be understood in the light of these principles. And it is
probable that their hopes had never risen higher than when they had seen
Him ride into Jerusalem amid the joyous acclamations of the multitudes
hailing Him as the Son of David.
But right after His entry into Jerusalem they had heard Him speak of
Himself as the “corn of wheat” which must fall into the ground and die,
and this,, at least, must have awakened dark forebodings. And, too, His
conduct and sayings during the pass-over-supper, and what followed, must
have deeply perplexed and distressed them. “Now is my soul troubled, and
what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?” must have filled them
with painful misgivings. He had said, “Yet a little while I am with you. Ye
shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come;
so now I say to you.” This was, indeed, sufficient to fill them with anxiety
and sorrow. They dearly loved Him. The thought of Him dying, and of
their parting with Him, was unbearable. Moreover, they must have asked
themselves, How can this be reconciled with His Messiah-ship? Are we,
after all, to give up our hope that this is He who would redeem Israel? And
what is to become of us! We have forsaken all to follow Him, will He now
forsake us, leaving us amid enemies, as sheep in the midst of wolves, to
suffer the fierce malignity of His triumphant foes!
“Our Lord, who knew what was in man, was well aware of what
was passing in the minds of His disciples. He knew how they were
troubled, and what anxious, desponding, and despairing thoughts.327
were arising in their hearts, and He could not but be touched with
the feeling of their infirmities. There lay on His own mind a weight
of anguish which no being in the universe could bear along with
Him. He could not have the alleviation of sympathy. He must tread
the winepress alone. They could not enter into His feelings; but He,
the magnanimous One, could enter into theirs. There was room in
His large heart for their sorrows, as well as His own. He feels their
griefs, as if they were His own; and kindly comforts those whom
He knew were soon to desert Him in the hour of His deepest
sorrows! ‘In all their afflictions, He was afflicted;’ and He shows in
the address which He made to them that ‘the Lord who anointed
Him to comfort those who mourn,’ and to bind up the
brokenhearted, had indeed ‘given to Him the tongue of the learned
that He might speak a word in season to them who were weary’
(

Isaiah 61:1; 50:4)”. (Dr. John Brown).
“Let not your heart be troubled” (

John 14:1).
It was the sorrows of their hearts which now occupied the great heart of
love. “Troubled” they were; deeply so. They were troubled at hearing that
one of their number should betray Him (

John 13:21). They were
troubled at seeing their Master “troubled in spirit” (

John 13:21);
troubled because He would remain with them only a “little while” (

John
13:33); troubled over the warning He had given to Peter, that he would
deny His Lord thrice. Thus this little company of believers were disquieted
and cast down. Wherefore the Savior proceeded to comfort them.
“Ye believe in God, believe also in me” (

John 14:1).
Commentators have differed widely as to the precise meaning of these
words. The difficulty arises from the Greek. Both verbs are exactly the
same, and may be translated (with equal accuracy) either in the imperative
or the indicative mood. Either will make good sense, and possibly each is
to be kept in mind. The R.V. reads: “Believe in God, believe also in me.”
Thus translated, it is a double exhortation. The force of it would then be:
Your perturbation of spirit arises from not believing what God has spoken
by His prophets concerning My sufferings and the glory which is to follow.
God has announced in plain terms that I was to be despised and rejected of
men, that I am to be wounded for your transgressions and bruised for your
iniquities. These are the words of Jehovah Himself; then doubt them not.
“Believe also in me.” I too have warned you what to expect. I have told.328
you that I am to suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests and
scribes and be killed. These things must be. Then hold fast the beginning of
your confidence steadfast unto the end: be not “offended” in Me, even
though I go to a criminal’s cross.
But it should be remembered that the Lord was speaking not only to the
Eleven, but to us as well. Even so, the above interpretation supplies an
exhortation which we constantly need. “Believe in God,” O Christian. Let
not your heart be troubled, for thy Father is possessed of infinite power,
wisdom, and goodness. He knows what is best for thee, and He makes all
things work together for thy good. He is on the Throne, ruling amid the
army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can
stay His hand. Why, then, art thou cast down, O my soul? God is our
refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore will we not
fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried
into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,
though the mountains shake with the swellings thereof. What though trials
come thick and fast, what though I am misunderstood and unappreciated,
what though Satan roar and rage against me? “If God be for us who can be
against us?” Believe in God. Believe in His absolute sovereignty, His
infinite wisdom, His unchanging faithfulness, His wondrous love. “Believe
also in me.” I am the One who died for thy sins and rose again for thy
justification; I am the One who ever liveth to make intercession for thee. I
am the same, yesterday, and to-day, and forever. I am the One who shall
come.again to receive you unto Myself, and ye shall be forever with Me.
Yes, “believe also in me!”
While the above interpretation is fully justified by the Greek, while the
double exhortation was truly needed both by the Eleven and by us to-day,
and while many able expositors have advanced it, yet we cannot but think
that the A.V. gives the truer force of our Lord’s words here, rendering the
first verb in the indicative and the second in the imperative. “Believe also in
me.” What, then, did Christ mean? The apostles had already, by Divine
illumination, recognized Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is
clear, then, that He was not here challenging their faith. We take it that
what the Lord had in view was this: the apostles already believed in Him as
the Messiah, and as the Savior, but their confidence reposed in One who
dwelt in their midst, who went in and out among them in the sensible
relationship of daily companionship. But He was about to be removed from
them, and He whom they had seen with their eyes and had handled with.329
their hands (

1 John 1:1) was to be invisible to the outward eye. Now,
says He, “Ye believe in God,” who is invisible; you believe in His love,
though you have never seen His form; you are conscious of His care,
though you have never touched the Hand that guides and protects you.
“Believe, also, in me”; that is to say, In like manner you must have full
confidence in My existence, love, and care, even though I am no longer
present to sight. This comfort remains for us; this is the faith in which we
are now to live: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye
see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of
glory” (

1 Peter 1:8).
“Believe also in me.” The “also” here brings out the absolute Deity
of Christ in a most unmistakable manner. “Here thou seest plainly
that Christ Himself testifies that He is equal with God Almighty;
because we must believe in Him even as we believe in God. If He
were not true God with the Father, this faith would be false and
idolatrous” (Dr. Martin Luther).
“In my Father’s house are many mansions” (

John 14:2).
The Father’s “house” is His dwelling-place. It is noteworthy that the Lord
Jesus is the only one who ever referred to the “Father’s house,” and He did
so on three occasions. First, He had said of the temple in Jerusalem, “Make
not my Father’s house a house of merchandise” (

John 2:16). Then He
had mentioned it in connection with the “prodigal son” and his elder
brother: “As he came and drew nigh to the house (the ‘father’s’) he heard
music and dancing”; here it is presented as the place of joy and gladness. In
John 14 Christ mentions it as the final abode of the saints.
The glories and blessedness of Heaven are brought before us in the New
Testament under a variety of representations. Heaven is called a “country”
(

Luke 19:12;

Hebrews 11:16); this tells of its vastness. It is called a
“city” (

Hebrews 11:10;

Revelation 21; this intimates the large
number of its inhabitants. It is called a “kingdom” (

2 Peter 1:11); this
suggests its orderliness. It is called “paradise” (

Luke 23:43;

Revelation 2:7); this emphasizes its delights. It is called the “Father’s
house,” which bespeaks its permanency.
The temple at Jerusalem had been called the Father’s “house” because it
was there that the symbol of His presence abode, because it was there He
was worshipped, and because it was there His people communed with Him..330
But before the Lord Jesus closed His public ministry He disowned the
temple, saying, “Behold your house is left unto you desolate” (

Matthew
23:38). Therefore does the Savior now transfer this term to the Father’s
dwelling-place on High, where He will grant to His redeemed a more
glorious revelation of Himself, and where they shall worship Him,
uninterruptedly, in the beauty of holiness.
The “Father’s house” has been the favourite term for Heaven with most
Christians. It speaks of Home, the Home of God and His people. Sad it is
that in this present evil age one of the most precious words in the English
language has lost much of its fragrance. Our fathers used to sing, “There is
no place like home.” To-day the average “home” is little more than a
boarding-house — a place to eat and sleep in. But “home” used to mean,
and still means to a few, the place where we are loved for our own sakes;
the place where we are always welcome; the place whither we can retire
from the strife of the world and enjoy rest and peace, the place where
loved ones are together. Such will Heaven be. Believers are now in a
strange country, yea, in an enemy’s land; in the life to come, they will be at
Home!
“In my Father’s house are many mansions.” The many rooms in the temple
prefigured these (see

1 Kings 6:5, 6;

Jeremiah 35:1-4, etc.). The
word for “mansions” signifies “abiding-places” — a most comforting term,
assuring us of the permanency of our future home in contrast from the
“tents” of our present pilgrimage. Blessed, too, is the word “many”; there
will be ample room for the redeemed of the past, present, and future ages;
and for the unfallen angels as well.
“If it were not so, I would have told you” (

John 14:2).
Had there been no room for believers in the many mansions of the Father’s
House, Christ would have said so. He had never deceived them; truth was
His only object —
“To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world,
that I should bear witness unto the truth” (

John 18:37).
It was because full provision had been made for their complete and eternal
happiness that He encouraged them to entertain such high hopes. He would
never have brought them into such an intimacy with Himself if that was
now to end forever..331
“I go to prepare a place for you” (

John 14:2).
“He does not explain how the place in the Father’s House should be
prepared for them; nor were they yet, perhaps, able to understand.
The Epistle to the Hebrews will show us, if we turn to it, that the
heavenly places had to be purified by the better sacrifices which He
was to offer, in which all the sacrifices of the law would find their
fulfillment. Ephesians speaks similarly of the ‘redemption of the
purchased possession’; and Colossians of the ‘reconciliation of
things in heaven’ (

Hebrews 9:23;

Ephesians 1:14;

Colossians 1:20). Such thoughts are even now strange to many
Christians; for we are slow to realize the extent of the injury that
sin has inflicted, and equally, therefore, the breadth of the
application of the work of Christ. This is not the place to enlarge
upon it; but it is not difficult to understand that wherever sin has
raised question of God — and it has done so, as we know, in
Heaven itself — the work of Christ as bringing out in full His whole
character in love and righteousness regarding that which had raised
the question, has enabled Him to come in and restore, consistently
with all that He is, what had been defiled with evil. Thus our High
Priest, to use as the apostle does, the figure of Israel’s day of
atonement, has entered into the Sanctuary to reconcile with the
virtues of His sacrifice the holy places themselves, and make them
accessible to us” (Numerical Bible).
“I go to prepare a place for you.” We also understand this to mean that the
Lord Jesus has procured the right — by His death on the Cross — for
every believing sinner to enter Heaven. He has “prepared” for us a place
there by entering Heaven as our Representative and taking possession of it
on behalf of His people. As our Forerunner He marched in, leading
captivity captive, and there planted His banner in the land of glory. He has
“prepared” for us a place there by entering the “holy of holies” on High as
our great High Priest, carrying our names in with Him. Christ would do all
that was necessary to secure for His people a welcome and a permanent
place in Heaven. Beyond this we cannot go with any degree of certainty.
The fact that Christ has promised to “prepare a place” for us — which
repudiates the vague and visionary ideas of those who would reduce
Heaven to an intangible nebula — guarantee that it will far surpass
anything down here..332
“I go to prepare a place for you.” God never has, and never will, take His
people into a place un-prepared for them. In Eden God first “planted a
garden,” and then placed Adam in it. It was the same with Israel when they
entered Canaan:
“And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee
into the land which he swear unto thy father, to Abraham, to Isaac,
and Jacob, to give them great and goodly cities, which thou
buildest not, and houses full of all good things, which thou filledst
not, and wells digged which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive
trees which thou plantedst not” (

Deuteronomy 6:10, 11).
And what can we say of the grace manifested by the Lord of glory going to
prepare a place for us? He will not entrust such a task to the angels. Proof,
indeed, is this that He loves us “unto the end.”
“And if I go and prepare a place for you” (

John 14:3).
“A special people taken from the earth in a risen Christ must have a
special place. A new thing was to take place, men brought into
Heaven! Man was not made for Heaven, but for the earth, and so
placed here to till the earth and live upon it. By sinning he lost the
earth and the earth shared his ruin. But by sinning he brought down
the Son of God from Heaven, who by His descent opened Heaven
as the normal place for those believing on Christ, and so in Him”
(Mr. Malachi Taylor).
“I will come again.” The Lord will not send for us, but come in person to
conduct us into the Father’s House. How precious we must be to Him!
“The Lord himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with
the voice of the arch-angel, and with the trump of God; and the
dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain
shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the
Lord in the air” (

1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
“And receive you unto myself.” Notice, not “take” but receive. The Holy
Spirit has charge of us during the time of our absence from the Savior; but
when the mystical body of Christ is complete then is His work clone here,
and He hands us over to the One who died to save us. “And receive you
unto myself.” To have us with Himself is His heart’s desire. To the dying
thief He said, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” To the Church it.333
is promised that we shall “ever be with the Lord” (

1 Thessalonians
4:17).
“That where I am, there ye may be also” (

John 14:3).
The place which was due the Son is the place which grace has given to the
sons. This is the blessed sequel to what was before us in John 13. There
Christ said, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” There, it is the
Savior maintaining His own on earth in communion with Himself. Here, in
due time, we shall be with Him, to enjoy unbroken fellowship forever. This
had been promised before:
“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am there shall
also my servant be” (

John 12:26).
Here it is formally declared. In

John 17:24 it is prayed for: “Father I will
that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.”
Here then, is the Divine specific for heart-trouble; here, indeed, is precious
consolation for one groaning in a world of sin. First, faith in the Lord Jesus
Christ. Second, the assurance that the Father’s House on high will be our
eternal Home. Third, the realization that the Savior has done and is doing
everything necessary to secure us a welcome there and fit that Home for
our reception. Fourth, the blessed hope that He is coming in person to
receive us unto Himself. Finally, the precious promise that we are to be
with Him forever. But, and mark it well, it is only in proportion as we are
“troubled” by our absence from Him, that we shall be comforted and
cheered by these precious words! Here is solid ground for consolation,
conclusive arguments against despondency and disquietude in the present
path of service and suffering, the Savior lives and loves and cares for us!
He is active, promoting our interests, and when God’s time arrives He shall
come and receive us unto Himself.
“And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know” (

John 14:4).
To understand this verse it is necessary to keep in mind the connection.
Only a very short time before, Peter had asked, “Lord whither goest thou?”
(

John 13:36), and when He replied, “Whither I go, thou canst not
follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards,” he rejoined, “Why
cannot I follow thee now?” Both of these questions of Peter, and they
probably expressed the thoughts of all the apostles, were answered by our
Lord in the verses which have just been before us. “It is as if He had said,.334
You are troubled in spirit because you know not whither I go; and because
I have said, ye cannot follow Me now. I am going to My Father; to His
House of many mansions; let not, therefore, these fears about Me distress
you; and as to your following Me — as to the reason why you cannot
follow Me now — and as to the way in which you are to follow Me
hereafter, know that arrangements must be made for your coming to where
I am going. I go to make these arrangements, and when they are completed
I will come and take you to Myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.
That is whither I am going — that is the reason why you do not go with
Me, or follow Me now — that is the way in which you are afterwards to
come where I am going: and, i.e. thus ‘ye know’, for I have plainly told
you ‘whither I go’ and the ‘way’ in which you are to come whither I shall
have gone” (Dr. John Brown). The “whither” was unto the Father; the
“way” was the process by which they would arrive there. It was not simply
the goal, but the path to it; not simply the whither but the how which Christ
had just revealed to them.
“Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest;
and how can we know the way?” (

John 14:5).
Our Lord had spoken very simply and plainly, yet was He misunderstood.
The Father, His House, its many mansions, Christ going there to prepare a
place and His promise to come and receive His people unto Himself and
share His place with us — these things were dim and unreal to the
materialistic and rationalistic Thomas. His mind was on earthly things. Did
the “father’s house” mean some palace situated outside Palestine, and did
Christ’s “going away” signify His removing to that palace? He was not
sure, and tells the Lord so. Well, if we brought our difficulties unto Him.
But let us not forget that the Spirit of truth had not yet been given to the
disciples to show them “things to come” (

John 16:13). He has been
given to us, therefore is our ignorance the more excuseless.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life”
(

John 14:6).
Before sin entered the world Adam enjoyed a threefold privilege in relation
to God; he was in communion with his Maker; he knew Him, and he
possessed spiritual life. But when he disobeyed and fell, this threefold
relationship was severed. He became alienated from God, as the hiding of
himself painfully demonstrated; having believed the Devil’s lie, he was no
longer capable of perceiving the truth, as the making of fig-leaf aprons.335
clearly evidenced; and he no longer had spiritual life, for God’s threat “In
the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” was strictly enforced. In
this same awful condition has each of Adam’s descendants entered this
world, for “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” — a fallen parent can
beget nought but a fallen child. Every sinner, therefore, has a three-fold
need — reconciliation, illumination, regeneration. This threefold need is
perfectly met by the Savior. He is the Way to the Father; He is the Truth
incarnate; He is the Life to all who believe in Him. Let us briefly consider
each of these separately.
“I am the way.” Christ spans the distance between God and the sinner.
Man would fain manufacture a ladder of his own, and by means of his
resolutions and reformations, his prayers and his tears, climb up to God.
But that is impossible. That is the way which seemeth right unto a man, but
the end thereof are the ways of death (

Proverbs 14:12). It is Satan who
would keep the exercised sinner on his self-imposed journey to God. What
faith needs to lay hold of is the glorious truth that Christ has come all the
way down to sinners. The sinner could not come in to God, but God in the
person of His Son has come out to sinners. He is the Way, the Way to the
Father, the Way to Heaven, the Way to eternal blessedness.
“I am the truth.” Christ is the full and final revelation of God. Adam
believed the Devil’s lie, and ever since then man has been groping amid
ignorance and error.
“The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they
stumble” (

Proverbs 4:19).
“Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life
of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the
blindness of their heart” (

Ephesians 4:18).
A thousand systems has the mind devised.
“God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many
inventions” (

Ecclesiastes 7:29).
“There is none that understandeth” (

Romans 3:11).
Pilate voiced the perplexity of multitudes when he asked, “What is truth?”
(

John 18:38). Truth is not to be found in a system of philosophy, but in
a Person-Christ is “the truth”: He reveals God and exposes man. In Him.336
are hid “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (

Colossians 2:3).
What tremendous folly to ignore Him! What will it avail you in Hell, dear
reader, even though you have mastered all the sciences of men, were
acquainted with all the events of history, were versed in all the languages
of mankind, were thoroughly acquainted with the politics of your day? O,
how you will wish then that you had read your newspapers less and your
Bible more; that with all your getting you had got understanding; that with
all your learning you had bowed before Him who is the Truth!
“I am the life.” Christ is the Emancipator from death. The whole Bible
bears solemn witness to the fact that the natural man is spiritually lifeless.
He walks according to the course of this world; he has no love for the
things of God. The fear of God is not upon him, nor has he any concern for
His glory. Self is the center and circumference of his existence. He is alive
to the things of the world, but is dead to heavenly things. The one who is
out of Christ exists, but he has no spiritual life. When the prodigal son
returned from the far country the father said,\
“This, my son, was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is
found” (

Luke 15:24).
The one who believes in Christ has passed out of death into life (

John
5:24). “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (

John 3:36).
Then turn to Him who is the Life.
“I am the way.” Without Christ men are Cains-wanderers. “They are all
gone out of the way” (

Romans 3:12). Christ is not merely a Guide who
came to show men the path in which they ought to walk: He is Himself the
Way to the Father. “I am the truth.” Without Christ men are under the
power of the Devil, the father of lies. Christ is not merely a Teacher who
came to reveal to men a doctrine regarding God: He is Himself the Truth
about God. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” “I am the life.”
Without Christ men are dead in trespasses and sins. Christ is not merely a
Physician who came to invigorate the old nature, to refine its grossness, or
repair its defects.
“I am come,” said He, “that they might have life, and that they
might have it more abundantly” (

John 10:10).
“No man cometh unto the Father but by me” (verse 6). Christ is the only
way to God. It is utterly impossible to win God’s favor by any efforts of
our own..337
“Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus
Christ” (

1 Corinthians 3:11).
“Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other
name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved”
(

Acts 4:12).
“There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the
man Christ Jesus” (

1 Timothy 2:6).
Let every Christian reader praise God for His unspeakable Gift, and
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by
the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath newly-made
for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an
high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true
heart in full assurance of faith” (

Hebrews 10:19-22).
“If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and
from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him” (verse 7).
This is intimately connected with the whole of the immediate context. The
reason why the apostles found it so hard to understand the Lord’s
references to the Father, the Father’s House, and His and their way there,
was because their views respecting Himself were so defective and deficient.
The true knowledge of the Father cannot be obtained but by the true
knowledge of the Son; and if the Son be really known, the Father is known
also. The Father is known just so far as the Son is known; no farther.
Christ was more than a manifestation of God; He was “God manifest in
flesh.” He was the Only-begotten, who fully declared Him.
“From henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” “These words
of our Lord are a prediction, which, like many predictions, is
uttered in the present tense — the event not only being as certain as
if it had already taken place, but appearing as accomplished to the
mind of the prophet, rapt into the future by the inspiring impulse. It
is equivalent to, ‘yet a very little while and ye shall know Him —
know Him so clearly that it may be said you see Him? The
prediction was accomplished on the day of Pentecost. From the
time these words were uttered, a series of events took place, in
close succession, in which through the atoning sufferings, and
death, and glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus, the character of.338
God the Father, was gloriously illustrated. But, till after the
resurrection, the disciples saw only the dark side of the cloud in
which Jehovah was; and even till ‘the Spirit was poured out from
on High,’ they but indistinctly discerned the true meaning of these
events. Then, indeed, ‘the darkness was passed, and the true light
shone.’ The Holy Spirit took of the things of Christ and showed
them unto them” (Dr. John Brown).
“Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth
us” (

John 14:8).
What the Lord had just said to Thomas, Philip was unable to thoroughly
grasp. With that strange faculty of the human mind to pass over the most
prominent and important points of a subject and to seize only on that on
which our own mind had been running, this disciple can think only of
“seeing” the Father, not how He is to be seen. Possibly Philip’s mind
reverted to the experience of Moses on the Mount, when, in answer to
earnest prayer, he was placed in a cleft of the rock and permitted to see the
retiring glory of Jehovah as He passed by; or, he may have remembered
what Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and the seventy elders of Israel
were permitted to witness when
“they saw the God of Israel, and under his feet, as it were, a paved
work of a sapphire stone, and, as it were the body of heaven in his
clearness” (

Exodus 24:10).
He may have recalled that prophecy,
“The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it
together” (

Isaiah 40:5).
“Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet
hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the
Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?” (

John
14:9).
This was a rebuke, the more forceful by being addressed to Philip
individually. He had said, “Show us the Father.” Christ replied, “Hast thou
not known me, Philip?” The force of this was: Have you never yet
apprehended who I am? The corporeal representation of God, such as
Philip desired, was unnecessary; unnecessary because a far more glorious
revelation of Deity was there right before him. The Word, made flesh, was.339
tabernacling among men, and His glory was “the glory of the only-begotten
of the Father.” He was the visible Image of the invisible God. He was the
“brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.” In Him
dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
“Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?
The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the
Father that dwelleth in me he doeth the works” (

John 14:10).
Christ was in the Father and the Father was in Him. There was the most
perfect and intimate union between Them. Both His words and His works
were a perfect revelation of Deity. It is very striking to note here that the
Son refers to His “words” as the Father’s “works.” His words were works,
for they were words of power. “He spake and it was done; he commanded,
and it stood fast”! He said “Lazarus, come forth”; and he that was dead
came forth.
“Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else
believe me for the very works’ sake” (

John 14:11).
This is solemn. The Lord has to descend to the level that He took when
speaking to His enemies —
“Though ye believe not me believe the works that ye may know,
and believe that the Father is in me and I in him” (

John 10:38).
So now He says to Philip, If ye will not, on My bare word, believe that I
am One with the Father, at least acknowledge the proof of it in My works.
How thankful we should be that the Holy Spirit has been given to us, to
make clear what was so dark to the disciples. Let us praise God that
“we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an
understanding, that we may know him that is true” (

1 John
5:20).
Let the interested student carefully ponder the following questions: —
1. For whom are the promises in verse 12 intended?
2. Who has ever done anything “greater” than Christ did, verse 12?
3. What does it mean to ask “in the name of” Christ, verse 13?
4. How is verse 14 to be qualified?
5. Is obeying God’s commandments “legalism,” verse 15?.340
6. mWhy cannot “the world” receive the Holy Spirit, verse 17?
7. What is the meaning of verse 20?.341
CHAPTER 49
CHRIST COMFORTING HIS DISCIPLES
(CONTINUED)

JOHN 14:12-20
Below is an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us: —
1. Christ’s cause furthered by His return to the Father, verse 12.
2. Praying in the name of Christ, verses 13, 14.
3. Love evidenced by obedience, verse 15.
4. The coming of the Comforter, verses 16, 17.
5. Christians not left orphans, verse 18.
6. Our life secured by Christ’s, verse 19.
7. Knowledge of Divine life in believers, verse 20.
At first reading there does not appear to be much direct connection
between the several verses of our present passage. This second section of
John 14 seems to lack a central unity. Yet, as we read it more attentively,
we notice that both

John 14:13 and

John 14:16 open with the word
“And,” which at once makes us suspect that our first hasty impression
needs correcting. The fact is that the more closely this Paschal Discourse
of Christ be studied, the more shall we perceive the close connection which
one part of it sustains to another, and many important lessons will be
learned by noting the relation which verse has to verse.
The first verse of our passage opens with the remarkable promise that the
apostles of Christ should do even greater works than their Master had
done. Then, in the next two verses reference is made to prayer, and the fact
that these are prefaced with the word “And” at once indicates that there is
an intimate relation between the doing of these works and the supplicating
of God. This is the more striking if we recall the central thing in the former
section. The opening verse of John 14 is a call to faith in Christ, and the
closing verse (11) repeats it. Following the word upon prayer, the Lord.342
next said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (

John 14:15). Here
we seem to lose the thread again, for apparently a new subject is most
abruptly introduced. But only seemingly so, for, in truth, it is just here that
we discover the progress of thought. The faith and the praying (the two
essential pre-requisites for the doing of the “greater works”) have their
root in an already existing love, which is now to be evidenced by pleasing
its Object. What comes next? The promise of “another Comforter.” Surely
this is most suggestive. It was only by the coming of the Holy Spirit that
the apostles’ faith in Christ was established, that power was communicated
for the performing of mighty works, and that their love was purified and
deepened. Thus we have a most striking example of the importance and
value of studying closely the connection of a passage and noting the
relation of one verse to another.
Having remarked upon the relation between the verses of our present
passage, let a brief word be said upon the connection which exists between
it as a whole and the first section of John 14. The Lord began by saying,
“Let not your heart be troubled.” All that followed was the assigning of
various reasons why the apostles should not be so excessively perturbed at
the prospect of His approaching departure. He began, by setting before
them three chief grounds of comfort: He was going to the Father’s House
of many mansions. He was going there to prepare a place for them. When
His preparations were complete, He would come for them in person to
conduct them to Heaven, so that His place might be theirs forever. Then
He had been interrupted by the question of Thomas and the request of
Philip, and in response He had stated with great plainness the truth
concerning both His person and His mission. Now, in the section before us,
the Lord brings forward further reasons why the sorrowing disciples should
not let their hearts be troubled. These additional grounds of consolation
will come before us in the course of our exposition.
Though the Lord continues in this second section of His Discourse what
He began in the first, yet there is a striking advance to be noted. At the
beginning of John 14, Christ had referred to what the apostles should have
known, namely, that the Son on earth had perfectly declared the Father,
and this ought to have been the means of their apprehending whither He
was going. This they knew (

John 14:4), however dull they might be in
perceiving the consequences. But now the Lord discloses to them that
which they could not understand till the Holy Spirit was given. It was by
the descent of the Comforter that they would be guided into all truth. It.343
was by the Holy Spirit that Christ would come to them (

John 14:18).
And it was by the Spirit they would know that Christ was in the Father,
and they in Him and He in them. The Lord did not say that they ought to
have understood, even then, these things: the apprehension of them would
not be until the day of Pentecost.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works
that I do shall he do also” (

John 14:12).
The “works” of which Christ here spake were His miraculous works, the
same as those mentioned in the two preceding verses, works to which He
appealed as proofs of His Divine person and mission. The one to whom
Christ promised this was “He that believeth on me.” Some have
understood this to refer to all the genuine followers of Christ. But this is
manifestly wrong, for there is no Christian on earth today who can do the
miracles which Christ did — cleanse the leper, give sight to the blind, raise
the dead. To meet this difficulty it has been replied, This is due to a
deficiency in the Christian’s faith. But, this is simply a begging of the
question. Our Lord did not say, “He that believeth on me may do the
works that I do, but shall do!” But of whom, then, was Christ speaking?
We submit that “He that believeth on me,” like the expression “them that
believe” in

Mark 16:17, of whom it was said certain miraculous signs
should follow them, refers to a particular class of persons, and that these
expressions must be modified by their reference and setting. In each case
the promise was limited to those whom our Lord was addressing. “The
only safe way of interpreting the whole of this Discourse, and many other
passages in the Gospels, is to remember that it was addressed to the
apostles — that everything in it has a direct reference to them — that much
that is said of them, and to them, may be said of, and to, all Christian
ministers, all Christian men — but that much that is said of them and to
them, cannot be truly said either of the one or the other of these classes,
and that the propriety of applying what is applicable to them, must be
grounded on some other foundation than its being found in this Discourse.
“It is plain from the New Testament that there was a faith which
was specially connected with miraculous powers. This faith was
that Christ is possessed of omnipotence, and that He intends,
through my instrumentality, to manifest His omnipotence in the
performance of a miracle. But, this faith, like all faith, must rest on
a Divine revelation made to the individual; where this is not the.344
case, there can be no faith — there may be fancy, there may be
presumption, but there can be no faith. Such a revelation Christ
made to the apostles and to the seventy disciples, when He said
‘Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions,
and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any
means hurt you’ (

Luke 10:19). No man, to whom such a
revelation has not been made, can work such miracles, and it would
seem that even in the case of those to whom such a revelation was
made, a firm belief of the revelation and reliance on the power and
faithfulness of Him who made it, was necessary to the miracles
being effectively produced in any particular instance.
“Keeping these undoubted facts in view, there is little difficulty in
interpreting Christ’s words here. The disciples had derived great
advantage of various kinds from the exercise of their Master’s
power to work miracles. They were quite aware that if He should
leave them, not only would they be deprived of the advantage of
His superior powers, but that their own, which were entirely
dependent on Him, would be withdrawn also. Now our Lord
assures them in the most emphatic manner, by a repetition of the
formula of affirmation, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you,’ that His
miraculous power was to continue to be exercised through them as
a medium, and that, to its being exercised henceforth, as hitherto,
faith in Him, on their part, would be at once necessary and
effectual. Such a statement was obviously calculated to reassure
their shaken minds, and comfort their sorrowing hearts. And we
find the declaration was filled to the letter. They, believing on Him,
did the works which He did. We find them, like Him,
instantaneously healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising
the dead” (Dr. John Brown).

Hebrews 2:4 records the fulfillment of Christ’s promise: “God also
bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers
miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
“And greater than these shall he do” (

John 14:12).
It is important to note that the word “works” in the second clause is not
found in the original. We do not think Christ was now referring to miracles
in the technical sense of that term, but to something else which, in
magnitude and importance, would exceed t, he miracle done by Himself.345
and the apostles. “Greater things would be better. What these greater
things were it is not difficult to determine. The preaching of a risen and
exalted Savior, the proclaiming of the Gospel to “every creature,” the
turning of souls from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to the
service of the living God, the causing of heathen to demolish with their
own hands the temples of idolatry, the building of that temple of living
stones of which Christ is both the foundation and the chief-corner, and
which far surpassed the temple at Jerusalem — these things were far
greater than any interferences with the course of nature’s laws. Thus did
the Father honor His Son, owning the perfect work which He had done, by
the greater wonders which the Holy Spirit effected through the disciples.
“Because I go unto my Father” (

John 14:12).
It is important to note how that in this “because” the Lord Jesus has
Himself given us a partial explanation here of how His promise would be
made good, though it is largely lost by placing a full stop at the end of

John 14:12. If we read straight on through

John 14:13 the Savior’s
explanation is the more apparent: “Greater things than these shall he do,
because I go unto my Father, And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that
will I do.” Christ would henceforth give to their prayers power from on
high, so that what they did, He would do in and through them. Thus, in His
“seed” was the pleasure of the Lord to prosper (

Isaiah 53:10). If the full
stop be insisted on and its force rigidly pressed,

John 14:12 would then
teach that, the disciples must now continue to work in the place of their
Lord the still greater things, because He Himself was no longer there. But
this is obviously wrong. He left them, it is true; but He also returned to
indwell them (

John 14:18), and in this way came the harvest of His own
seed-sowing. “And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another
reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor’“ (4:37, 38).
Link

John 14:13 with

John 14:12 and all is plain and simple: thus
connected we are taught that the greater things done by the apostles were,
in reality, done by Christ Himself! As

Mark 16:20 tells us, “And they
went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them.” But
what He did was in answer to their believing prayers!
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the
Father may be glorified in the Son” (

John 14:13).
The connection of this with the whole context is very precious. Let it be
kept steadily in mind that Christ was here comforting His disciples, who.346
were troubled at the prospect of His leaving them, and that He was calling
them to an increased confidence in Himself. In the previous verse He had
just assured them that His cause would not suffer by His return to the
Father, for even greater things should be done through and by them as a
testimony of His glory. Now He reminds them that His corporeal absence
would only unite these apostles to Him more intimately and more
effectually in a spiritual way. True, He would be in Heaven, and they on
earth, but prayer could remove all sense of distance, prayer could bring
them into His very presence at any time, yea, prayer was all-essential if
they were to do these “greater” things. And had he not already given them
a perfect example? Had He not shown them that there was an intimate
connection between the great works which He had done and the prayers
which He had offered to the Father? Had they not heard Him repeatedly
“ask” the Father (see

John 6:11; 11:41; 12:28, etc.)? Then let them do
likewise. He was interpreting His own words at the beginning of this
Discourse: “Believe also in me.” Faith in His person was now to be
manifested by prayer in His name!
“If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (

John 14:14).
Very blessed is this. The disciples were invited to count upon a power that
could not fail, if sought aright. Christ was no mere man whose departure
must necessarily bring to an end what He was wont to do upon earth.
Though absent, He would manifest His Deity by granting their petitions:
whatsoever they asked He would do. All power in Heaven is His. The
Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son (

John 5:22) and in the
exercise of this power He gives His own whatsoever they need.
“If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” What is meant by asking
in the name of Christ? Certainly it is much more than the mere putting of
His name at the end of our prayers, or simply saying, “Hear me for Jesus’
sake.”
First, it means that we pray in His person, that is, as standing in His place,
as fully identified with Him, asking by virtue of our very union with
Himself. When we truly ask in the name of Christ, He is the real petitioner.
Second, it means, therefore, that we plead before God the merits of His
blessed Son. When men use another’s name as the authority of their
approach or the ground of their appeal, the one of whom the request is
made looks beyond him who presented the petition to the one for whose.347
sake he grants the request. So, in all reverence we may say, when we truly
ask in the name of Christ, the Father looks past us, and sees the Son as the
real suppliant.
Third, it means that we pray only for that which is according to His
perfections and what will be for His glory. When we do anything in
another’s name, it is for him we do it. When we take possession of a
property in the name of some society, it is not for any private advantage,
but for the society’s good. When an officer collects taxes in the name of
the government, it is not in order to fill his own pockets. Yet how
constantly do we overlook this principle as an obvious condition of
acceptable prayer! To pray in Christ’s name is to seek what He seeks, to
promote what He has at heart!
“If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” From what has been
said above it will be seen that Christ was very far from handing His
disciples a ‘blank check’ (as some have expressed it), leaving them to fill it
in and assuring them that God would honor it because it bore His Son’s
signature. Equally so is it a carnal delusion to suppose that a Christian has
only to work himself up to an expectation to suppose that God will hear his
prayer, in order to obtain what he asks for. To apply to God for any thing
in the name of Christ, the petition must be in keeping with what Christ is.
We can only rightly ask God for that which will magnify His Son. To ask in
the name of Christ is, therefore, to set aside our own will, and bow to the
perfect will of God. If only we realized this more, what a check it would be
on our ofttimes rash and illconsidered requests! How many of our prayers
would never be offered did we but pause to inquire, Can I present this in
that Name which is above every name?
Not what I wish, but what I want,
O let Thy grace supply;
The good unasked, in mercy grant,
The ill, though asked, deny.
— Cowper.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments” (

John 14:15).
There seems to be a most abrupt change of subject here, and many have
been puzzled in finding the connection. Let us first go back to the opening
verse of our chapter. The apostles were troubled at heart at the prospect of
their Master’s departure, and this evidenced, unmistakably, their deep
affection for Him. Here, with tender faithfulness, He directs their affection..348
Your love for Me is to be manifested not by inconsolable regrets, but by a
glad and prompt compliance with My commandments. So much is clear;
but what of the link with the more immediate context? In seeking the
answer to this, let us ask, “What is the leading subject of the context?”
This, as we have seen, is a call to faith in an ascended Christ: in the
previous verse, a faith evidenced by praying in His name. Now He says, “If
ye love me, keep my commandments.” Surely then the answer is plain: love
is the spring of true faith and the goal of real prayer. “If ye shall ask any
thing in my name, I will do it” He had just said, and this that the Father
might be glorified in the Son. For what, then, shall we ask? is the natural
inquiry which is now suggested? Here then is our Lord’s response: an
increase of/ore (in myself and in all who are Christ’s) which will evidence
itself by doing His will. Unless this be the first and foremost desire of our
hearts, all other petitions will remain unanswered.
“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his
commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight”
(

1 John 3:22).
“All sentimental talking and singing about love are vain. Unless, by
grace, we show a truthful obedience, the profession of affection is
worse than affectation. There is more hypocrisy than we suppose.
Love is practical, or it is not love at all” (Mr. P. W. Heward).
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” How this verse rebukes the
increasing Antinomianism of our day! In some circles one cannot use the
word “commandments” without being frowned upon as a “legalist.”
Multitudes are now being taught that Law is the enemy of Grace, and that
the God of Sinai is a stern and forbidding Deity, laying upon His creatures
a yoke grievous to be borne. Terrible travesty of the. truth is this. The One
who wrote upon the tables of stone is none other than the One who died
on Calvary’s Cross; and He who here says “If ye love me, KEEP MY
COMMANDMENTS” also said at Sinai that He would show mercy unto
thousands of them “that love me and KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS”! It is
indeed striking to note that this tender Savior, who was here comforting
His sorrowing disciples, also maintained His Divine majesty and insisted
upon the recognition of His Divine authority. Mark how His Deity appears
here: “Keep my commandments”: we never read of Moses or any of the
prophets speaking of their commandments!.349
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” What are Christ’s
commandments? We will let another answer:
“The whole revelation of the Divine will, respecting what I am to
believe and feel and do and suffer, contained in the Holy Scriptures
is the law of Christ. Both volumes of Christ are the work of the
Spirit of Christ. His first and great commandment is: ‘Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and soul, and strength’;
and the second great commandment is like unto the first: ‘Thou
shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ The commandments of Christ
include whatever is good and whatever God hath required of us”
(Dr. John Brown)
That the One who brought Israel out of Egypt, led them across the
wilderness, and gave them the Law, was Christ Himself, is clear from

1
Corinthians 10:9: “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also
tempted, and were destroyed by serpents” (cf.

1 Corinthians 10:4).
“Obedience to the commandments of Christ is the test of love to
Him, and there will be no difficulty in applying the test, if there be
only an honest desire to have the question fairly settled; for there
are certain qualities of obedience, which are to be found in every
lover of Christ, and which are never found in any one else, and it is
to these we must attend, if we would know what is our character.
Every lover of Christ keeps His commandments implicitly: that is,
he does what he does because Christ bids him. The doing what
Christ commands may be agreeable to my inclinations or conducive
to my interest; and if it is on these grounds I do it, I serve myself,
not the Lord Jesus Christ. What Christ commands may be
commanded by those whose authority I acknowledge and whose
favor I wish to secure; if I do it on these grounds, I keep man’s
commandments, not Christ’s. I keep Christ’s commandments only
when I do what He bids me because He bids me. If I love Christ, I
shall keep His commandments impartially. If I do anything because
Christ commands me to do it, I shall do whatever He commands. I
shall not ‘pick and choose.’ If I love Christ, I shall keep His
commandments cheerfully. I shall esteem it a privilege to obey His
law. The thought that they are the commandments of Him whom I
love, because of His excellency and kindness, makes me love His
law, for it must be excellent because it is His, and it must be fitted.350
to promote my happiness for the same reason. If I love Christ I
shall keep His commandments perseveringly. If I really love Him I
can never cease to love Him, and if I never cease to love Him, I
shall never cease to obey Him” (Condensed from Dr. John Brown).
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another
Comforter, that he may abide with you forever” (

John 14:16).
Note that this verse begins with “And.” In the previous one the Lord had
been speaking of the disciples’ love for Him, marked by an obedient walk.
Here He reveals His love for them, evidenced by His asking for One who
should shed abroad the love of God in their hearts (

Romans 5:5) and
thus empower them to keep His commandments! Until now Christ had
been their Comforter, but He was going to leave them; therefore does He
ask the Father that another Comforter should be given to them. Here,
again, we behold the Savior loving them “unto the end”! There is also a
blessed link of connection between this verse and verses 13, 14. There the
Lord had taught them to “ask in His name,” and in

Luke 11:13, He had
told them that the Father would give the Holy Spirit if they “asked for
him.” But here Christ is before them: His prayer precedes theirs — He
would “ask” the Father for the Comforter to be sent unto them.
There has been a great deal of learned jargon written on the precise
meaning of the Greek word here rendered “Comforter.” Personally, we
believe that no better term can be found, providing the original meaning of
our English word be kept in mind. Comforter means more than Consoler.
It is derived from two Latin words, corn “along side of” and fortis
“strong.” A comforter is one who stands alongside of one in need, to
strengthen. The reference here is, of course, to the Holy Spirit, and the fact
that He is termed “another Comforter” signifies that He was to fill the
place of Christ, doing for His disciples all that He had done for them while
He was with them on earth, only that the Holy Spirit would minister from
within as Christ had from without. The Holy Spirit would comfort, or
strengthen in a variety of respects: consolation when they were cast down,
grace when they were weak or timid, guidance when they were perplexed,
etc. The fact that the Lord here called the Holy Spirit “another Comforter”
also proves Him to be a person, and a Divine person. It is striking to
observe that in this verse we have mentioned each of the three Persons of
the blessed Trinity: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another
Comforter”! One other thought suggested by the “another Comforter.”.351
The believer has two Comforters, Helpers or Strengtheners: the Holy Spirit
on earth, and Christ in Heaven, for the same Greek word here rendered
“Comforter” is translated “Advocate” in 1 John 2:l, — an “advocate” is
one who aids, pleads the cause of his client. Christ “maketh intercession”
for us on High (

Hebrews 7:25), the Holy Spirit within us (

Romans
8:26)! And this other “Comforter,” be it noted, was to abide with them not
just so long as they grieved Him not, but “for ever.” Thus is the eternal
preservation of every believer Divinely assured.
“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because
it seeth him not, neither knoweth him” (

John 14:17).
The Lord had just promised the apostles “another Comforter,” that is, One
like unto Himself and in addition to Himself. Here He warns them against
expecting a visible Person. The One who should come is “the Spirit.” Two
thoughts are suggested by the title here given Him: “the Spirit of truth,” or
more literally, “the Spirit of the truth.” The “truth” is used both of the
incarnate and the written Word. Christ had said to the disciples, “I am the
way, the truth, and the life”; a little later He would say to the Father, in
their hearing, “Thy Word is truth” (

John 17:17). The Spirit, then, is the
Spirit of Christ, because sent by Him (

John 16:7), and because He is
here to glorify Christ (

John 16:14). The Spirit is also the Spirit of the
written Word, because He moved men to write it (

2 Peter 1:21), and
because He now interprets it (

John 16:13). Hitherto Christ had been
their Teacher; henceforth the Holy Spirit should take His place (

John
14:26). The Holy Spirit works not independently of the written Word, but
through and by means of it.
“Whom the world cannot receive.” Very solemn is this. It is not “will not,”
but cap, not receive. Unable to receive the Spirit “the world” demonstrates
its real character — opposed to the Father (

1 John 2:16). The whole
world lieth in the wicked one (

1 John 5:19), and he is a liar from the
beginning: how then could the world receive “the Spirit of truth”? Our
Lord adds another reason, “because it seeth him not, neither knoweth
him.” But what did the Lord mean? How can the invisible Spirit be seen?

1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us: “The natural man receiveth not the things of
the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know
them, because they are spiritually discerned.” It is spiritual “seeing” which
is in view, as in

John 6:40. And why cannot those who are of the
“world” see Him? Because they have never been born again: “Except a.352
man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And why should
the Lord have made this statement here? Surely for the comfort of the
disciples. “Another Comforter” had been promised them; One who should
abide with them for ever;, even the Spirit of Truth. What glorious
conquests might they now expect to make for Christ! Ah! the Lord warns
them of what would really take place: “the world” would not, could not,
receive Him.
“But ye know him: for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you”
(

John 14:17).
“But” points a contrast: indicating at once that the work of the Spirit
would be to separate the people of Christ from the world. “He dwelleth
with you”: He did, even then, for Christ was full of the Spirit (

Luke 4:1;

John 3:34). “And shall be in you” was future. The Lord Jesus here
promised that the Third Person of the Holy Trinity should take up His
abode within believers, making their bodies His temple. Marvellous grace
was this. But, on what ground does the Holy Spirit enter and indwell the
Christian? Not because of any personal fitness which He discovers there,
for the old evil nature still remains in the believer. How, then, is it possible
for the Holy Spirit to dwell where sin is still present? It is of the first
moment that we obtain the correct answer to this, for multitudes are
confused thereon: yet there is no excuse for this; the teaching of Scripture
is abundantly clear. Jehovah of old, dwelt in the midst of Israel, even when
they were stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart. He did so on the ground
of atoning blood (see

Leviticus 16:16). In like manner, the Holy Spirit
indwells the believer now, as the witness to the excellency and sufficiency
of that one offering of Christ’s which has “perfected for ever them that are
set apart” (

Hebrews 10:14). Strikingly was this foreshadowed in the
types. The “oil” (emblem of the Holy Spirit) was placed upon the blood —
see

Leviticus 8:24, 30;

Leviticus 14:14, 17, etc.
“I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you”
(

John 14:18).
‘The marginal rendering here is to be preferred: “I will not leave you
orphans.” It looks back to

John 13:33 where the Lord had addressed
them as “little children”. They were not to be like sheep without a
shepherd, helpless believers in a hostile world, without a defender, forsaken
orphans incapable of providing for themselves, left to the mercy of
strangers. “I will come to you”: how precious is this! Before we go to His.353
place to be with Him (

John 14:2, 3), He comes to be with us! But what
is meant by “I will come to you”? We believe that these words are to be
understood in their widest latitude. He came to them corporeally,
immediately after His resurrection. He came to them in spirit after His
ascension. He will come to them in glory at His second advent. The present
application of this promise to believers finds its fulfillment in the gift of the
Holy Spirit indwelling us individually, present in the midst of the assembly
collectively. And yet we must not limit the coming of Christ to His children
to the presence of the Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is
altogether beyond the grasp of our finite minds. Yet the New Testament
makes it clear that in the unity of the Godhead, the advent of the Holy
Spirit was also Christ coming, invisibly, to be really present with His own.
“Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age”
(

Matthew 28:20).
“Christ liveth in me,” said the apostle Paul (

Galatians 2:20). “Christ
among you, the hope of glory” (

Colossians 1:27). How unspeakably
blessed is this! Friends, relatives, yea, professing Christians may turn
against us, but He has promised, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”
(

Hebrews 13:5).
“Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more”
(

John 14:19).
The last time “the world” saw the Lord of glory was as He hung upon the
Cross of shame. After His resurrection He appeared unto none but His
own. “The world seeth me no more” is not an accurate translation, nor is it
true. “The world” shall see Him again. “Yet a little while and the world me
no longer sees” is what the original says, “Every eye shall see him”
(

Revelation 1:7). When? When He is seated upon the Great White
Throne to judge the wicked. Then shall they be punished with “everlasting
destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his
power” (

2 Thessalonians 1:9).
“But ye see me” (

John 14:19). They saw Him then, while He was
speaking to them. They saw Him, again and again, after He had risen from
the dead. They saw Him, as He went up to Heaven, till a cloud received
Him out of their sight. They saw Him, by faith, after He had taken His seat
at the right hand of God, for it is written, “We see Jesus, who was made a
little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory.354
and honor” (

Hebrews 2:9). They see Him now, for they are present
with the Lord. They shall see Him at His second coming:
“When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as
he is” (

1 John 3:2).
They shall see Him for ever and ever throughout the Perfect Day: for it is
written,
“And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their
foreheads” (

Revelation 22:4).
“Because I live, ye shall live also” (

John 14:19).
“Your spiritual life now, and your eternal life hereafter, are both
secured by My life. I live, have life in Myself, can never die, can
never have My life destroyed by My enemies, and shall live on to all
eternity. Therefore: ye shall live also — your life is secured forever,
and can never be destroyed; you have everlasting life now, and shall
have everlasting glory hereafter” (Bishop Ryle).
The blessed truth here expressed by Christ is developed at length in the
Epistles: there the Holy Spirit shows us, believers are so absolutely one
with Christ that they partake with Him of that holy happy life into which, in
the complete enjoyment of it, Christ entered, when He rose again and sat
down on the Father’s Throne.
“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in
you” (

John 14:20). The first reference in “that day” is to Pentecost,
when Christ came, spiritually, to His disciples; came not merely to visit, but
to abide with and in them. Then were they brought into the consciousness
of their oneness of life with Him. The ultimate reference, no doubt, is to
the Day of His glorious manifestation: then shall we know even as we are
known.
The following questions are on the closing section of John 14: —
1. How does Christ “manifest” Himself to us, verse 21?
2. What is the difference between “commandments” in verse 21 and
“words” in verse 23?
3. What is the double “peace” of verse 27?
4. How is the Father “greater” than Christ, verse 28?.355
5. “Believe” what, verse 29?
6. What is the meaning of verse 30?
7. What is the spiritual significance of the last clause in verse 31?.356
CHAPTER 50
CHRIST COMFORTING HIS DISCIPLES
(CONCLUDED)

JOHN 14:21-31
The following is an Analysis of the closing section of John 14:
1. Christ manifested to the believer, verse 21.
2. The quandary of Judas, verse 22.
3. Christ’s explanation, verses 23-25.
4. The ministry of the Spirit, verse 26.
5. The gift of Christ’s peace, verse 27.
6. The failure in the disciples’ love, verses 28-29.
7. The coming conflict, verses 30-31.
That the central design of Christ in the first main section of this Paschal
Discourse was to comfort His sorrowing disciples, and that this section
does not close until we reach the end of John 14 is clear from verse 27:
“Let not your heart be troubled.” The Lord here repeats what He had said
in the first verse, and then adds, “neither let it be afraid.” That the first
section of the Discourse does terminate at the close of the chapter, is
obvious from its final words: “Arise, let us go hence.”
Many and varied were the grounds of comfort which the Lord had laid
before the apostles. First, He assured them that He was going to the
Father’s House. Second, that He would make provision for their coming
there. Third, that when the necessary preparations were completed, He
would come and conduct them thither. Fourth, that He had opened the way
for them, had made them acquainted with the way, and would give them
the energy necessary to go along that way. Fifth, that He would not
withdraw from them the miraculous powers which He had conferred upon
them, but would enable them to do still greater things. Sixth, that whatever
they needed for the discharge of the work to which He had called them, on.357
asking in His name, they should assuredly obtain. Seventh, that a Divine
Person should be sent to supply His place, acting as their instructor, guide,
protector and consoler. Eighth, that they should not be “left orphans,” but
He would return to them in possession of an endless life, of which they
should be partakers. Ninth, that in a soon-coming day they should
apprehend the oneness of life, shared by the Father and the Son and the
sons.
In the passage which is to be before us we find the Lord adding to these
grounds of comfort. Tenth, He would manifest Himself to those who kept
His commandments. Eleventh, those who kept His Word should be loved
by the Father. Twelfth, the Holy Spirit would bring back to their
remembrance all things Christ had said unto them. Thirteenth, Peace He
left with them. Fourteenth, His own peace He bequeathed unto them. No
wonder that He said, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be
afraid”!
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that
loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I
will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (

John 14:21).
In this instance we shall depart from our customary method of expounding
the different clauses of a verse in the order in which they occur; instead, we
shall treat this verse more or less topically. That in it which is of such vital
importance is the final clause, where the Savior promised to manifest
Himself to the obedient believer. Now there is nothing the real Christian
desires so much as a personal manifestation of the Lord Jesus. In
comparison with this all other blessings are quite secondary. In order to
simplify, let us ask and attempt to answer three questions: How does the
Savior now “manifest” Himself? What are the effects of such
manifestation? What are the conditions which I have to meet?
In what way does the Lord Jesus now manifest Himself? It is hardly
necessary to say, not corporeally. No longer is the Word, made flesh,
tabernacling among men. No more does He say, as He said to Thomas,
“Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands, and reach hither thy
hand, and thrust it into my side” (

John 20:27).
No longer may He be seen by our physical eyes (

1 John 1:1). Nor is the
promise of Christ which we are now considering made good through
visions. We recall the vision which Jacob had at Bethel, when a ladder was.358
set upon earth, whose top reached unto heaven, upon which the angels of
God ascended and descended. We think of that wondrous vision given to
Isaiah, when he saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, before which the
seraphim cried, “holy, holy, holy.” No, it is not in visions or in dreams that
the Lord promises to come to His people. What then? It is a spiritual
revelation of Himself to the soul! It is a vivid realization of the Savior’s
being and nearness, in a deep and abiding sense of His favor and love. “By
the power of the Spirit, He makes His Word so luminous, that as we read
it, He Himself seems to draw near. The whole biography of Jesus becomes
in this way a precious reality. We see His form. We hear His words.” It is
through the written Word that the incarnate Word “manifests” Himself to
the heart!
And what are the effects upon the soul of such a manifestation of Christ.
First and foremost, He Himself is made a blessed and glorious reality to us.
The one who has been granted such an experience can say with Job,
“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye
(the eye of the heart) seeth thee” (

Job 42:5).
Such a one now discerns the surpassing beauty and glory of His person and
exclaims, “Thou art fairer than the children of men.” Again: such a
manifestation of Christ to the soul assures us of His favor. Now we hear
Him saying (through the Scriptures) “As the Father hath loved me, so I
have loved you.” And now I can respond, “My beloved is mine, and I am
his.” Another consequence of this manifestation of Christ is “comfort and
support in trials, especially in those trials, which, on account of their
Personal nature, are beyond the reach of human sympathy and love — the
trials of desertion and loneliness, from which Jesus Himself suffered so
keenly; heart trials, domestic trials, secret griefs, too sacred to be breathed
in the ears of men — all these trials in which nothing can sustain us but the
sympathy which His own presence gives.” Just as the Son of God appeared
to the three faithful Hebrews in the fiery furnace, so does He now come to
those in the place of trial and anguish. So too in the last great trial, should
we be called upon to pass through it ere the Savior comes. Then to earthly
friends we can turn no longer. But we may say with the Psalmist, “Though
I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for
thou art with me.”
Now, let us inquire, What are the terms on which the Savior thus draws
near? Surely every Christian reader is most anxious to secure the key to an.359
experience so elevating, so blessed. Listen now to the Savior’s words, “He
that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and
he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will
manifest myself to him.” The faith by which we are saved does not destroy
the necessity for an obedient walk. “Faith is the root of which obedience is
the beautiful flower and fruit. And it is only when faith has issued in
obedience, in an obedience which stumbles not at sacrifices, and halts not
when the way is rough and dark; in an obedience that cheerfully bears the
cross and shame — it is only then that this highest promise of the Gospel is
fulfilled… When love for the Savior shall lead us to keep His holy Word —
lead us to an immediate, unreserved, unhesitating obedience — lead us to
say, in the spirit of entire self-surrender and sacrifice, ‘Thy will, not mine,
be done,’ then, farewell to doubt and darkness, to loneliness and sorrow!
Then shall we mourn no more an absent Lord. Then shall we walk as
seeing Him who is invisible, triumphant over every fear, victorious over
every foe.”
f16
This manifestation of Christ is made only to the one who really loves Him,
and the proof of love to Him is not by emotional displays but by
submission to His will. There is a vast difference between sentiment and
practical reality. The Lord will give no direct and special revelation of
Himself to those who are in the path of disobedience. “He that hath my
commandments,’’ means, hath them at heart. “And keepeth them,” that is
the real test. We hear, but do we heed? We know, but are we doing His
will?
“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in
deed and in truth” (

1 John 3:18)!
“And he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father.” There are three
different senses in which Christians may be considered as objects of the
loving favor of the Father and of the Son: as persons elected in sovereign
grace to eternal life; as persons actually united to Christ by believing: and
as persons transformed by the sanctifying work of the Spirit. It is in this
last sense that Christ here speaks. Just as the Father is said to love the Son
because of His obedience (

John 10:17, 18), so is He said to love the
believer for the same reason. It is the love of complacency, as distinguished
from the love of compassion. The Father was well pleased with His
incarnate Son, and He is well pleased with us when we honor and glorify
His Son by obeying His commandments..360
“Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt
manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” (

John 14:22).
This question had in view the Lord’s words when He had just said, “The
world seeth me no more” (

John 14:19), and that He would “manifest”
Himself to him who kept His commandments. This conflicted sharply with
the Jewish ideas of the Messiah and His kingdom. As yet Judas had failed
to perceive that the truth of God must sever between those who receive it
and those who reject it, and that therefore His kingdom was “not of this
world” (

John 18:36). And why was it that Judas understood this not?

1 Corinthians 2:10, 11 tells us — the Spirit had not yet been given.
“Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot.” “There is something very affecting in
this brief parenthesis; the short, sad sentence which our Evangelist throws
in — ‘Judas, not Iscariot.’ The one is not for a moment to be confounded
with the other; the true apostle with the traitor. How widely different may
men be who yet bear the same name! How many have but the name in
common!” (Dr. John Brown.) The Judas who asked this question was the
brother of James, the son of Alphaeus, see

Luke 6:16.
“Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the
world?” How many there are to-day who, by means of legislation and
social amelioration, wish to press on the world those teachings of Christ
which are only for His own! Judas did not go quite so far as the
unbelieving brethren of Christ according to the flesh — “Go show thyself
to the world” (

John 7:4); but he was sorely puzzled at this breach
between the world and them. Dull indeed was Judas, for the Lord had just
said, “Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it
seeth him not, neither knoweth him” (

John 14:17). But equally dull,
most of the time, are all of us.
“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep
my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto
him, and make our abode with him” (

John 14:23).
“If Judas had known what the world is, and what every human
heart is by nature, instead of being puzzled at the Lord’s
withdrawal from the world, he would have wondered how Jesus
could reveal Himself to any man” (Stier).
The Lord here repeats that God has fellowship only with those whose
hearts welcome Him, who love Him, and whose love is manifested by.361
submission to His Word. Then He loves in return. The Old Testament
taught precisely the same thing. “I love them that love me” (

Proverbs
8:17). “If a man love me he will keep my word.” Let not renewed souls
torture themselves by attempting to define too nicely the extent of their
“keeping.” Let those who are tempted to do so meditate upon

John
17:6 — “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me
out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have
kept thy Word.” Mark it well that this was said by the Savior in full view of
all the infirmities and failures of the disciples, and said prior to the day of
Pentecost!
To “keep” God’s commandments is to obey them, and the primary, the
fundamental thing in obedience, is the desire of the heart, and it is on the
heart that God ever looks. Two things are true of every Christian: deep
down in his heart there is an intense, steady longing and yearning to please
God, to do His will, to walk in full accord with His Word. This yearning
may be stronger in some than in others, and in each of us it is stronger at
some times than at others; nevertheless, it is there! But in the second place,
no real Christian fully realizes this desire. Every genuine Christian has to
say with the apostle Paul,
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect:
but I follow after, if that I may lay hold of that for which I am laid
hold of by Christ Jesus” (

Philippians 3:12).
Now we believe that it is this heart-obedience, this inward longing to be
fully conformed to His will, this burning desire of the renewed soul, of
which Christ here speaks. “If a man love me, he will keep my word.” Every
true believer loves Christ; therefore every true believer “keeps” His Word,
keeps it in the sense thus defined. Let it be repeated, God looks at the
heart; whereas we are constantly occupied with the outward appearance.
As we scrutinize our deeds, if we are honest, we have to acknowledge that
we have “kept his word” very imperfectly; yea, it seems to us, that we are
not entitled to say that we have “kept” it at all. But the Lord looks behind
the deeds, and knows the longings within us. The case of Peter in John 21
is a pertinent illustration. When Christ asked him a third time, “Lovest thou
me?” His disciple answered,
“Lord, thou knowest all things; THOU knowest that I love thee”
(

John 21:17)..362
My disgraceful actions contradicted my love; my fellow-disciples have
good reason to doubt it, but Thou who searchest the heart knowest better.
In one sense it is an intensely solemn and searching thing to remember that
nothing can be hidden from Him before whom all things are open and
naked; but in another sense it is most blessed and comforting to realize that
He can see in my heart what I cannot often discover in my ways, and what
my fellow-believers cannot — a real love for Him, a genuine longing to
please and glorify Him.
Let not the conclusion be drawn that we are here lapsing into Antinomian
laxity, or making it a matter of no moment what our outward lives are like.
To borrow words which treat of another subject,
“As there was a readiness to will so there should be a performance
also” (

2 Corinthians 8:11).
Though the apostle acknowledged that he had not “already attained,” yet
he continued to “follow after.” Where there is love for Christ, there cannot
but be bitter sorrow (as with Peter) when we know that we have grieved
Him. And more; there will be a sincere confession of our sins, and
confession will be followed by earnest supplication for grace to enable us
to do what He has bidden. Nevertheless, it is blessed to know that He who
is the Truth declares, positively and without qualification, “If a man love
me, he will keep my word;” and in the light of

John 17:6, this must
mean: first and absolutely, in the desire of his heart; secondly and
relatively, in his walk.
It is to be noted that the Lord here makes a change of terms from what He
had said in

John 14:21; a slight change, but an important one. There He
had said, “He that hath my commandments, keepeth them;” here, “If a man
love me, he will keep my word” — in the Greek the singular number is
used.
“This is a beautiful difference, and of great practical value, being
bound up with the measure of our attentiveness of heart. Where
obedience lies comparatively on the surface, and self-will or
worldliness is not judged, a ‘commandment’ is always necessary to
enforce it. People ask, ‘Must I do this? Is there any harm in that?’
To such the Lord’s will is solely a question of commandment. Now
there are commandments, the expression of His authority, and they
are not grievous. But, besides, where the heart loves Him deeply,.363
His ‘word’ will give enough expression of His will. Even in nature a
parent’s look will do it. As we well know, an obedient child catches
the mother’s desire before the mother has uttered a word. So,
whatever might be the word of Jesus, it would be heeded, and thus
the heart and life be formed in obedience” (Mr. W. Kelly).
“True also it is that something of both characters of love, as Christ affirms
them, will be found in all true Christians over-borne by so much contrary
influence that, like Peter in the high priest’s palace, only He who knoweth
all things can detect the true disciple beneath the false. There is the false
within us all, as well as the true, Alas, in many, so often uppermost. The
results cannot fail to follow: the blessing of which the Lord speaks attaches
to that with which He here connects it. We find it in proportion as we
answer to the character.
“Looked at in this way, there is no difficulty in seeing the deeper nature of
a love that keeps Christ’s ‘word’, as compared with that which keeps
‘commandments’ only. Not to keep a positive command is simple, rank
rebellion, nothing less. His ‘word’ is wider, while it addresses itself with
less positiveness of authority to the one whose heart and conscience is less
prompt to the appeal of love” (Numerical Bible). I do not “command” a
friend: my mind is made known to him by my words, and he acts
accordingly. One word has greater weight with him than a hundred
commands have on one at a distance? A servant receives my commands
and obeys them, but he knows not my heart; but my friend walks with me
in the intelligence of my deepest thoughts. Ah! is this so with us? Are we
really walking with Him who calls us not servants, but friends — see

John 15:15!
“And my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our
abode with him.” Just as there is a marked advance from His
“commandments” in

John 14:21 to His “word” in

John 14:23, so
there is in the blessings respectively attached to the keeping of the one and
the other. In the former He promises to manifest Himself to the heart, in
the latter He speaks of both the Father and Himself coming to make Their
abode with such a soul. “Abiding” speaks of fellowship all through John’s
writings. Not only is our fellowship with the Father and His Son (

1
John 1:3), but to the one who truly heeds the Word, They will come and
have fellowship with him. This is the reward of loving obedience. The.364
“result will be to manifest the competency of Scripture for the ‘man
of God’ to whom alone it is pledged as competent, able to furnish
throughly unto all good works.’ Who is the man of God, but he
who is out and out for God, and who else can expect to be
furnished in this way, but he who is honestly intentioned to use his
knowledge as before Him who gave it? The very passage which we
are quoting here reminds us of where the profit is to be found: ‘All
Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness.’ If we do not mean to accept the
reproof and the correction, where is the use of talking about the
rest?” (Numerical Bible).
“He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (

John 14:24).
Here was the final word to Judas: the line between “the world” and “his
own” is clearly drawn by the “whoso loveth me, whoso loveth me not.”
Not to love the Loveliest is because of hatred. There is no other
alternative. Of old Jehovah had declared that He would visit the iniquities
of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of
them that hated Him, but that He would show mercy unto thousands of
them that loved Him and kept His commandments (

Exodus 20:6). What
seems to be indifference is really enmity. All who are not with Christ are
against Him (

Luke 11:23).
“He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings.” Observe the change. In
the previous verse the one who loves Christ keeps His Word; here the one
who loves Him not, His sayings or words. Why this variation? Because
unbelief does not combine in their unity the individual sayings, but
dismisses them as they are isolated. The true believer hears in all God’s
words one Word — Him, the unbeliever heeds not! An unbeliever may
observe some of Christ’s words as a matter of policy and prudence,
because they commend themselves to his reason; but others, which to him
are distasteful, which appear impracticable or severe, he esteems not. If he
loved Christ he would value His Word as a whole; but he does not;
therefore he keeps not His words.
“And the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which
sent me” (

John 14:24).
Thus the Lord concludes this point by magnifying the Word. Here, we say
again, was the final answer to the question, “How is it that thou wilt.365
manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” Does the world believe
on Me? Does it love Me? Does it keep My commandments? How, then,
can I manifest Myself to it?
“Thus did the Lord dispose of the three main stumbling blocks
which hindered these disciples: the offense of Thomas, who would
know all with his natural understanding; the offense of Philip, who
was eager for visible manifestations to the outward senses; the
offense of Judas, who would too readily receive the whole world
into the kingdom of God” (Lange).
“These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you”
(

John 14:25).
In the light of the verse which immediately follows we understand this to
mean: I said what I have in view of My near departure. Because I am yet
with you, these things make little impression upon your hearts, but when
the Holy Spirit has come you will be able to enter the better into their
meaning and blessedness.
“But the comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will
send in my name, he shall teach you all things” (

John 14:26).
This is one of many verses which contains clear proof of the Divine
personality of the Holy Spirit. A mere abstract influence could not teach.
Moreover, “he shall teach you,” being a masculine pronoun, could not be
applied to any but a real person. The Comforter would be sent by the
Father, but in the name of Christ. The significance of this can best be
ascertained by a reference to

John 5:43: just as the Savior had come in
the Father’s name, so the Holy Spirit would be sent in the Son’s name: that
is to say, in His stead, for His interests, with His authority. Just as the Son
had made known the Father, so the Spirit would take of the things of
Christ and show them to His people. Just as the Son had glorified the
Father, so the Spirit would glorify Christ. Just as, hitherto, the Savior had
supplied all the needs of His own, henceforth the Comforter should fully
provide for them.
“He shall teach you all things.” Here is another instance where the words
of Scripture are not to be taken in their absolute sense. If the apostles were
to be taught all things without any qualification, they would be omniscient.
Nor did Christ mean that the Holy Spirit would teach them all that it was
possible for finite creatures to know: He would not make known to them.366
the secrets of futurity, or the occult workings of nature. Rather would He
teach them all that it was necessary for them to know for their spiritual
well-being, and this, particularly, in connection with what Christ had taught
them, either fully or in germ form. He would make clear to them that
which, as yet, was mysterious in their Master’s sayings.
“He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your
remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (

John 14:26).
Two striking examples of that are recorded in this very Gospel. In

John
2:22 we are told, “When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples
remembered that he had said this unto them.” Again, in

John 12:16 we
read, “These things understood not his disciples at the first; but when Jesus
was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him.”
No doubt this promise of Christ applies in a general way to all real
Christians. Hundreds of times has the writer prayed to God, just before
entering the pulpit, that He would be pleased to strengthen his memory and
enable him to recall the exact words of Scripture as he quoted them; and
graciously has He answered us. We would confidently urge our fellow-believers
to plead this verse before God on sleepless nights, or when on a
bed of sickness, as well as before going to teach a Sunday School class,
asking Him to bring back to your remembrance the comforting promises of
His Word; or, when tempted, that His precepts might flash upon you.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you”
(

John 14:27).
Without being dogmatic, we believe that there is a double “peace” spoken
of here: a peace left and a peace given. In the New Testament “peace” is
spoken of in a twofold sense: as signifying reconciliation, contrasted from
alienation: and a state of tranquillity as contrasted from a state of tumult.
The one is objective, the other subjective. The former is referred to in

Romans 5:1: “Being justified by faith we have peace with God.” His
holy wrath against us and our vile opposition against Him are ended
forever. The latter is mentioned in

Philippians 4:7:
“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your
hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
The one who fully unbosoms himself before the throne of grace enjoys rest
within. The one then is judicial, the other, experiential. “Peace I leave with
you” would be the result of the Atonement. “My peace I give unto you,”.367
would be enjoyed through the indwelling Spirit. The one was for the
conscience; the other for the heart.
“My peace I give unto you.” This was the personal peace which He had
enjoyed here on earth. He was never ruffled by circumstances, and never
resisted the will of the Father. He was ever in a state of most perfect amity
with God. The peace He here promised His disciples was the peace which
filled His own heart, as the result of His unbroken communion with the
Father.
“For us it is restlessness of will which disturbs this — the strife with
His will which this means, and the dissatisfaction of soul which
follows every gain that may seem to make in that direction. Doing
only His will, there can be no proper doubt as to the issue”
(Numerical Bible).
“Not as the world giveth, give I unto you” (

John 14:27).
The peace which the worldling has is shallow, unstable, unsatisfying, false.
It talks much about peace, but knows little of the thing itself. We have
peace-societies, peace-programmes, a peace-palace, and a League of
Nations to promote peace; yet all the great powers are armed to the teeth!
“When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction
cometh upon them” (

1 Thessalonians 5:3).
The world’s peace is a chimera: it fails under trial. When the world gives, it
is to the ungodly, not to the godly, whom they hate. When the world gives,
it gives away, and has no longer. But Christ gives by bringing us into what
is eternally His own. When Christ gives He gives forever, and never takes
away.
“Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”
(

John 14:27).
Here the Lord concludes that section of His discourse which had been
devoted to the comforting of His sorrowing disciples. Abundant had been
the consolation He had proffered them. Their hearts ought now to have
been at perfect peace, their minds being stayed upon God. And yet while
this verse terminated the first section of the address, it is closely connected
with the verses which follow where the Lord proceeded to make
application of what He had been saying..368
“Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come unto
you. If ye love me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the
Father: for my Father is greater than I” (

John 14:28).
Connecting this verse with the one immediately preceding, the force of our
Lord’s words is this: If you only believed what I have been saying to you,
your cares and fears would vanish, and joy would take the place of sorrow.
But what did the Lord mean by “If ye loved me?” Was He not instructing
and directing their love, in order to purify it? He knew that they loved Him,
and what He had said in

John 14:15, 21, 23, assumed it. But their love
was not yet sufficiently dis-interested: they were occupied too much with
the thought of their own bereavement, instead of the heavenly joy into
which the Redeemer was about to enter. If they had loved Him with a pure
love, they would have been happy at His exaltation and forgotten
themselves.
“My Father is greater than I.” This is the favourite verse with Unitarians,
who deny the absolute Deity of Christ and His perfect equality with the
Father — a truth which is clearly taught in many scriptures. Those who use
these words of our Lord in support of their blasphemous heresy, wrest
them from their context, ignoring altogether the connection in which they
are found. The Savior had just told the apostles that they ought to rejoice
because He was going to the Father, and then advances this reason, “For
my Father is greater than I.” Let this be kept definitely before us and all
difficulty vanishes. The Father’s being greater than Christ was the reason
assigned why the disciples should rejoice at their Master’s going to the
Father. This at once fixes the meaning of the disputed “greater,” and shows
us the sense in which it was here used. The contrast which the Savior drew
between the Father and Himself was not concerning nature, but official
character and position.
Christ was not speaking of Himself in His essential Being. The One who
thought it not robbery to be “equal with God” had taken the servant form,
and not only so, had been made in the likeness of men. In both these
senses, namely, in His official status (as Mediator) and in His assumption
of human nature, He was inferior to the Father. Throughout this discourse
and in the Prayer which follows in chapter 17, the Lord Jesus is
represented as the Father’s Servant, from whom He had received a
commission, and to whom He was to render an account; for whose glory
He acted, and under whose authority He spake. But there is another sense,.369
more pertinent, in which the Son was inferior to the Father. In becoming
incarnate and tabernacling among men, He had greatly humiliated Himself,
by choosing to descend into shame and suffering in their acutest forms. He
was now the Son of man that had not where to lay His head. He who was
rich had for our sakes become poor. He was the Man of sorrows, and
acquainted with grief. In view of this, Christ was now contrasting His
situation with that of the Father in the heavenly Sanctuary. The Father was
seated upon the throne of highest majesty; the brightness of His glory was
uneclipsed; He was surrounded by hosts of holy beings, who worshipped
Him with uninterrupted praise. Far different was it with His incarnate Son
— despised and rejected of men, surrounded by implacable enemies, soon
to be nailed to a criminal’s cross. In this sense, too, He was inferior to the
Father. Now in going to the Father, the Son would enjoy a vast
improvement of situation. It would be a gain unspeakable. The contrast
then was between His present state of humiliation and His coming state of
exaltation to the Father! Therefore, those who really loved Him should
have rejoiced at the tidings that He would go to the Father, because the
Father was greater than He — greater both in official status and in
surrounding circumstances. It was Christ owning His place as Servant, and
magnifying the One who had sent Him.
“And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is
come to pass, ye might believe” (

John 14:29).
“The question naturally occurs, Believe what? That question is
answered by referring to the parallel statement in reference to the
treachery of Judas: ‘Now I tell you, that when it is come to pass, ye
might believe that I am’ (

John 13:19) — that I am the Messiah,
the Divinely appointed, qualified, promised, accredited Savior: and
of course, that all that I have taught you is indubitably true; and all
I have promised is absolutely certain. The disciples did believe this,
but their faith was feeble; it required confirmation. It was to be
exposed to severe trials, and needed support: and the declaration by
Him of these events before they took place was of all things the
best fitted for giving their faith that required confirmation and
support” (Dr. John Brown).
“Hereafter I will not talk much with you” (

John 14:30).
In a very short time He would be cut off from them, while He undertook
His greatest work of all. In reminding them that it would be impossible for.370
Him to say much more to them, He hinted at the deep importance of them
pondering over and over what He had just said, and what He was on the
point of saying to them. This was to be His last address in His humbled
state, and during the next few hours they would sorely need the sustaining
and comforting power of these precious promises if they were not to faint.
“For the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me”
(

John 14:30).
The awful enmity of the Serpent was now to be fully vented upon the
woman’s Seed: he was to be allowed to bruise the Savior’s heel. All that
this meant we are incapable of entering into. It would seem that Satan
began his assault in the Garden, and ceased not till he had moved Pilate to
seal the sepulcher and place a guard about it. The words “and hath nothing
in me” refer to His inherent holiness. As the sinless One there was nothing
within to which the Devil could appeal. How completely different is it with
us! Throw a lighted match into a barrel of gunpowder, and there is a fearful
explosion; cast it into a barrel of water and it is quenched!
“For the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” This too
was said for the consolation of the apostles: the Savior would assure them
beforehand that the issue of the approaching conflict was not left in any
doubt. There was no weak point in Him for Satan to find; therefore He
must come forth more than Conqueror. Satan could find something in
Noah, Abraham, David, Peter. but Christ was the Lamb “without blemish.”
“But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the
Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go
hence” (

John 14:31).
Most blessed is this. The last words of this sentence look back to the end
of the previous verse. The prince of this world cometh — but,
nevertheless, I suffer him to come against Me, and I go to meet Him.
Christ’s love to the Father was thus evidenced by His willingness to allow
the dragon to lay hold upon Him. He went forth to meet Satan because He
had received “commandment” from the Father to do so. It is remarkable
that this is the only time that Christ ever spoke of His love to the Father; it
was now that He was to give the supreme proof of it. How this rebukes
those who are ever talking and singing of their love for the Lord! In the
words “Arise, let us go hence,” the Lord must have got up from the
supper-table, and apparently was followed by His apostles into the outer.371
room, where they remained until they left for Gethsemane, cf.

John
18:1.
The following questions are to help the student on the first section of John
15: —
1. What is meant by “the true vine,” verse 1?
2. In what sense is the Father the husbandman, verse 1?
3. What is meant by “He taketh away,” verse 2?
4. What is meant by “purgeth,” verse 2?
5. What is meant by “abide in Me,” verse 4?
6. What is meant by the last clause of verse 5?
7. Who is in view in verse 6?.372
CHAPTER 51
CHRIST THE TRUE VINE

JOHN 15:1-6
The following is an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us: —
1. The vine and the husbandman, verse 1.
2. The fruitless branch cared for, verse 2.
3. The purging of fruitless branches, verse 2.
4. Clean through the Word, verse 3.
5. Conditions of fruit-bearing, verse 4.
6. The absolute dependency of Christians, verse 5.
7. The consequences of severed fellowship, verse 6.
The passage which is to engage our attention is one that is, most probably,
familiar to all of our readers. It is read as frequently, perhaps, as any
chapter in the New Testament. Yet how far do we really understand its
teachings? Why does Christ here liken Himself to a “vine”? What are the
leading thoughts suggested by the figure? What does He mean when He
says, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away”? What is
the “fruit” here referred to? And what is the force of “If a man abide not in
me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered; and men gather them, and
cast into the fire, and they are burned”? Now as we approach any portion
of Scripture for the purpose of studying it, it is essential to keep in mind
several elementary but important principles: Who are the persons
addressed? In what connection are they addressed? What is the central
topic of address? We are not ready to take up the details of any passage
until we have first settled these preparatory questions.
The persons addressed in John 15 were the eleven apostles. It was not to
unsaved people, not to a mixed audience that Christ was speaking; but to
believers only. The remote context takes us back to

John 13:1. In
chapters 13 and 14 we are taught what Christ is doing for us while He is.373
away — maintaining us in communion with Himself, preparing a place for
us, manifesting Himself to us, supplying our every need through the Holy
Spirit. In John 15, it is the other side of the truth which is before us. Here
we learn what we are to be and do for Him during the interval of His
absence. In 13 and 14 it is the freeness and fulness of Divine grace; in 15 it
is our responsibility to bear fruit.
The immediate context is the closing sentence of chapter 14: “Arise, let us
go hence. Christ had just said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give
unto you.” He had said this while seated at the supper-table, where the
emblems of His death — the basis of our peace — were spread. Now He
gets up from the table, which prefigured His resurrection from the dead.
Right afterwards He says, I am the true vine. Christ’s symbolic action at
the close of 14, views Him on resurrection-ground, and what we have here
in 15 is in perfect accord with this. There must be resurrection-life before
there can be resurrection-fruit. The central theme then is not salvation, how
it is to be obtained or the danger of losing it. Instead, the great theme here
is fruit-bearing, and the conditions of fertility. The word “fruit” occurs
eight times in the chapter, and in Scripture eight is the resurrection-number.
It is associated with a new beginning. It is the number of the new
creation. If these facts be kept in mind, there should be little difficulty in
arriving at the general meaning of our passage.
The figure used by our Savior on this occasion was one with which the
apostles must have been quite familiar. Israel had been likened unto a
“vine” again and again in the Old Testament. The chief value of the vine
lies in its fruit. It really serves no other purpose. The vine is a thing of the
earth, and in John 15, it is used to set forth the relation which exists
between Christ and His people while they are on earth. A vine whose
branches bear fruit is a living thing, therefore the Savior here had in view
those who had a living connection with Himself. The vine and its branches
in John 15 does not represent what men term “the visible Church,” nor
does it embrace the whole sphere of Christian profession, as so many have
contended. Only true believers are contemplated, those who have passed
from death unto life. What we have in

John 15:2 and 6 in nowise
conflicts with this statement, as we shall seek to show in the course of our
exposition.
The word which occurs most frequently in John 15 is “abide,” being found
no less than fifteen times in the first ten verses. Now “abiding” always has.374
reference to fellowship, and only those who have been born again are
capable of having fellowship with the Father and His Son. The vine and its
branches express oneness, a common life, shared by all, with the complete
dependency of the branches upon the vine, resulting in fruit-bearing. The
relationship portrayed is that of which this world is the sphere and this life
the period. It is here and now that we are to glorify the Father by bearing
much fruit. Our salvation, our essential oneness with Christ, our standing
before God, our heavenly calling, are neither brought into view nor called
into question by anything that is said here. It is by dragging in these truths
that some expositors have created their own difficulties in the passage.
A few words should now be said concerning the place which our present
section occupies in this Paschal Discourse of our Lord. In the previous
chapter we have seen the apostles troubled at the prospect of their
Master’s departure. In ministering to their fearful and sorrowing hearts, He
had assured them that His cause in this world would not suffer by His
going away: He had promised that, ultimately, He would return for them;
in the meantime, He would manifest Himself to them, and He and the
Father would abide in them. Now He further assures them that their
connection with Him and their connection with each other, should not be
dissolved. The outward bond which had united them was to be severed; the
Shepherd was to be smitten, and the sheep scattered (

Zechariah 13:7).
But there was a deeper, a more intimate bond, between them and Him, and
between themselves, a spiritual bond, and while this remained, increasing
fruitfulness would be the result.
The link of connection between the first two main sections of the
discourse, where Christ is first comforting and then instructing and warning
His disciples, is found in the dosing verses of chapter 14. There He had
said, Hereafter, I will not talk much with you; for the prince of this world
cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love
the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.” In the
light of this, chapter 15 intimates: Let My Father now (when the prince of
this world cometh, but only as an instrument in the hands of His
government) do with Me as He will. It will only issue in the bringing forth
of that which will glorify the Father, if the corn of wheat died it would
bring forth “much fruit” (

John 12:24). Fruit was the end in view of the
Father’s commandment and the Son’s obedience. Thus the transition is
natural and logical..375
“I am the true vine” (

John 15:1).
This word “true” is found in several other designations and descriptions of
the Lord Jesus. He is the “true Light” (

John 1:9). He is the “true bread”
(

John 6:32). He is “a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true
tabernacle” (

Hebrews 8:2). The usage of this adjective in the verses just
quoted help to determine its force. It is not true in opposition to that which
is false; but Christ was the perfect, essential, and enduring reality, of which
other lights were but faint reflections, and of which other bread and
another tabernacle,, were but the types and shadows. More specifically,
Christ was the true light in contrast from His forerunner, John, who was
but a “lamp” (

John 5:35 R.V.), or light-bearer. Christ was “the true
bread” as contrasted from the manna, which the fathers did eat in the
wilderness and died. He was a minister of “the true tabernacle” in contrast
from the one Moses made, which was “the example and shadow of
heavenly things” (

Hebrews 8:5).
But in addition to these instituted types of the Old Testament, there are
types in nature. When our Lord used this figure of the “vine,” He did not
arbitrarily select it out of the multitude of objects from which an ordinary
teacher might have drawn illustrations for his subject. Rather was the vine
created and constituted as it is, that it might be a fit representation of
Christ and His people bringing forth fruit to God.
“There is a double type here, just as we find a double type in the
‘bread,’ a reference to the manna in the wilderness, and behind that,
a reference to bread in general, as the staff of human life. The vine
itself is indeed constituted to be an earthly type of a spiritual truth,
but we find a previous appropriation of it to that which is itself a
type of the perfect reality which the Lord at length presents to us.
We refer to the passages in Psalms and prophets where Israel is
thus spoken of” (Waymarks in the Wilderness).
In

Psalm 80:8-9 we read,
“Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: Thou hast cast out the
heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst
cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land.”
Again, in Isaiah we are told.376
“Now will I sing to my well-beloved, a song of my beloved
touching his vineyard. My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very
fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof,
and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst
of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it
should bring forth grapes and it brought forth wild grapes…. For
the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the
men of Judah his pleasant plant” (

Isaiah 5:1, 2, 7).
These passages in the Old Testament throw further light on the declaration
of Christ that He was “the true vine.” Israel, as the type, had proved to be
a failure.
“I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art
thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?”
(

Jeremiah 2:21):
“Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself”
(

Hosea 10:1).
In contrast from this failure and degeneracy of the typical people, Christ
says “I am the true vine” — the antitype which fulfills all the expectations
of the Heavenly Husbandman. Many are the thoughts suggested by this
figure: ‘to barely mention them must suffice. The beauty of the vine; its
exuberant fertility; its dependency — clinging for support to that on which
and around which it grows; its spreading branches; its lovely fruit; the juice
from which maketh glad the heart of God and man (

Judges 9:13;

Psalm 104:15), were each perfectly exemplified in the incarnate Son of
God.
“And my Father is the husbandman” (

John 15:1).
In the Old Testament the Father is represented as the Proprietor of the
vine, but here He is called the Husbandman, that is the Cultivator, the One
who cares for it. The figure speaks of His love for Christ and His people:
Christ as the One who was made in the form of a servant and took the
place of dependency. How jealously did He watch over Him who
“grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry
ground” (

Isaiah 53:2)!.377
Before His birth, the Father prevented Joseph from putting away his wife
(

Matthew 1:18-20). Soon after His birth the Father bade Joseph to flee
into Egypt, for Herod would seek the young Child to destroy Him
(

Matthew 2:13). What proofs were these of the Husbandman’s care for
the true Vine!
“And my Father is the husbandman.” The Father has the same loving
solicitude for “the branches” of the vine. Three principal thoughts are
suggested. His protecting care: His eye is upon and His hand tends to the
weakest tendril and tenderest shoot. Then it suggests His watchfulness.
Nothing escapes His eye. Just as the gardener notices daily the condition of
each branch of the vine, watering, training, pruning as occasion arises; so
the Divine Husbandman is constantly occupied with the need and welfare
of those who are joined to Christ. It also denoted His faithfulness. No
branch is allowed to run to waste. He spares neither the spray nor the
pruning knife. When a branch is fruitless He tends to it; if it is bearing fruit,
He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. “My Father is the
husbandman.” This is very blessed. He does not allot to others the task of
caring for the vine and its branches, and this assures us of the widest, most
tender, and most faithful care of it. But though this verse has a comforting
and assuring voice, it also has a searching one, as has just been pointed out.
“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away”
(

John 15:2).
This has been appealed to by Arminians in proof of their view that it is
possible for a true Christian to perish, for they argue that the words “taketh
away” signify eternal destruction. But this is manifestly erroneous, for such
an interpretation would flatly contradict such explicit and positive
declarations as are to be found in

John 4:14;

John 10:28;

John
18:9;

Romans 5:9-10;

Romans 8:35-39, etc. Let us repeat what we
said in the opening paragraph: Christ was not here addressing a mixed
audience, in which were true believers and those who were merely
professors. Nor was He speaking to the twelve — Judas had already gone
out! Had Judas been present when Christ spoke these words there might be
reason to suppose that He had him in mind. But what the Lord here said
was addressed to the eleven, that is, to believers only! This is the first key
to its significance.
Very frequently the true interpretation of a message is discovered by
attending to the character of those addressed. A striking example of this is.378
found in Luke 15 — where a case the very opposite of what we have here
is in view. There the Lord speaks of the lost sheep and the lost coin being
found, and the wayward son coming to the Father. Many have supposed
that the Lord was speaking (in a parable) of the restoration of a
backslidden believer. But the Lord was not addressing His disciples and
warning them of the danger of getting out of communion with God.
Instead He was speaking to His enemies (

Luke 15:2) who criticised
Him because He received sinners. Therefore, in what follows He proceeded
to describe how a sinner is saved, first from the Divine side and then from
the human. Here the case is otherwise. The Lord was not speaking to
professors, and warning them that God requires truth in the inward parts;
but He is talking to genuine believers, instructing, admonishing and
warning them.
“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away.” Many
Calvinists have swung to the other extreme, erring in the opposite
direction. We greatly fear that their principal aim was to overthrow the
reasoning of their theological opponents, rather than to study carefully this
verse in the light of its setting. They have argued that Christ was not
speaking of a real believer at all. They insist that the words “beareth not
fruit” described one who is within the “visible Church” but who has not
vital union with Christ. But we are quite satisfied that this too is a mistake.
The fact is, that we are so accustomed to concentrate everything on our
own salvation and so little accustomed to dwell upon God’s glory in the
saved, that there is a lamentable tendency in all of us to apply many of the
most Pointed rebukes and warnings found in the Scriptures (which are
declared to be “profitable for reproof and correction,” as well as “for
instruction in righteousness”) to those who are not saved, thus losing their
salutary effects on ourselves.
The words of our Lord leave us no choice in our application of this
passage — as a whole and in its details — no matter what the conclusions
be to which it leads us. Surely none will deny that they are believers to
whom He says “Ye are the branches” (

John 15:5). Very well then;
observe that Christ employs the same term in this needed word in

John
15:2: “Every branch in me, that beareth not fruit.” To make it doubly clear
as to whom He was referring, He added, “Every branch in me that beareth
not fruit.” Now if there is one form of expression, which, by invariable and
unexceptional use, indicates a believer more emphatically and explicitly
than another, it is this: — “in me,” “in him,” “in Christ.” Never are these.379
expressions used loosely; never are they applied to any but the children of
God:
“If any one be in Christ (he is) a new creation”
(

2 Corinthians 5:17).
“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away.” If then, it is a
real believer who is in view here, and if the “taketh away” does not refer to
perishing, then what is the force and meaning of our Lord’s words? First of
all, notice the tense of the first verb: “Every branch in me not bearing fruit
he taketh away” is the literal translation. It is not of a branch which never
bore fruit that the Lord is here speaking, but of one who is no longer
“bearing fruit.” Now there are three things which cause the branches of the
natural vine to become fruitless: either through running to leaf, or through
disease (a blight), or through old age, when they wither and die. The same
holds good in the spiritual application. In

2 Peter 1:8, we read:
“For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye
shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord
Jesus Christ.”
The unescapable inference from this is that, if the “these things”
(mentioned in

2 Peter 1:5-7) do not abound in us, we shall be “barren
and unfruitful” — compare

Titus 3:14. In such a case we bring forth
nothing but leaves — the works of the flesh. Unspeakably solemn is this:
one who has been bought at such infinite cost, saved by such wondrous
grace, may yet, in this world, fall into a barren and unprofitable state, and
thus fail to glorify God.
“He taketh away.” Who does? The “husbandman,” the Father. This is
conclusive proof that an unregenerate sinner is not in view.
“The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto
the Son” (

John 5:22).
It is Christ who will say, “Depart from me” (Matthew 25). It is Christ who
shall sit upon the Great White Throne to judge the wicked (Revelation 20).
Therefore it cannot be a mere professor who is here in view — taken away
unto judgment. Again a difficulty has been needlessly created here by the
English rendering of the Greek verb. “Airo” is frequently translated in the
A.V. “lifted up.” For example: “And they lifted up their voices” (

Luke
17:13, so also in

Acts 4:24). “And Jesus lifted up his eyes” (

John.380
11:41). “Lifted up his hand” (

Revelation 10:5), etc. In none of these
places could the verb be rendered “taken away.” Therefore, we are
satisfied that it would be more accurate and more in accord with “the
analogy of faith” to translate, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he
lifteth up” — from trailing on the ground. Compare with this

Daniel
7:4: “I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from
the earth, and made to stand upon the feet like a man.”
“And every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it may bring
forth more fruit” (

John 15:2).
The words “branch in me,” though dearly understood, are not expressed in
the Greek. Literally, it is “And every one that fruit bears,” that is, every
one of the class of persons mentioned in the previous clause. How this
confirms the conclusion that if believers are intended in the one case, they
must be in the other also! The care and method used by the Husbandman
are told out in the words: “He purgeth it.” The majority of people imagine
that “purgeth” here is the equivalent of “pruning,” and understand the
reference is to affliction, chastisement, and painful discipline. But the word
“purgeth” here does not mean “pruning,” it would be better rendered,
“cleanseth,” as it is in the very next verse. It may strike some of us as
rather incongruous to speak of cleansing a branch of a vine. It would not
be so if we were familiar with the Palestinian vineyards. The reference is to
the washing off of the deposits of insects, of moss, and other parasites
which infest the plant. Now the “water” which the Husbandman uses in
cleansing the branches is the Word, as

John 15:3 tells us. The thought,
then, is the removal by the Word of what would obstruct the flow of the
life and fatness of the vine through the branches. Let it be clearly
understood that this “purging is not to fit the believer for Heaven (that was
accomplished, once for all, the first moment that faith rested upon the
atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ), but is designed to make us more
fruitful, while we are here in this world.
“And every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth
more fruit.”
“It is that action of the Father by which He brings the believer more
fully under the operation of the ‘quick and powerful’ Word. The
Word is that by which the believer is born, with that new birth to
which no uncleanness attaches (

1 Peter 1:23). But while by
second birth he is ‘clean,’ and in relation to his former condition is.381
‘cleansed,’ he is ever viewed as exposed to defilement, and
consequently as needing to be ‘cleansed.’ And as the Word was,
through the energy of the Spirit, effectual in the complete cleansing,
so in regard to defilement by the way and in regard to the
husbandman’s purging to obtain more fruit, the purging is ever to
be traced up to the operation of the Word (

Psalm 119:9;

2
Corinthians 7:1). Whatever other means may be employed, and
there are many, they must be viewed as subordinate to the action of
the ‘truth,’ or as making room for its purging process. Thus when
affliction as a part of the process is brought into view, it is only as a
means to the end of the soul’s subjection and obedience to the
Word. So the Psalmist said, ‘Before I was afflicted, I went astray:
but now have I kept thy word… It is good for me that I have been
afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes’ (

Psalm 119:67, 71). It
will, we think, be apparent, that all means which Divine wisdom
employs to bring to real subjection to the Word, must be regarded
as belonging to the process of ‘purging’ that we may bring forth
more fruit.
“It would be interesting to pursue our inquiry into the course of our
purging but our present limits forbid this. We may just remark that
much that may be learned on this point from such passages as those
of which, without any extended remark, we cite one or two. Here is
one which suggests a loving rebuke of all impatience under the
operations of the Husbandman’s hand: ‘For a season if need be, ye
are in heaviness through manifold trials’ (

1 Peter 1:7). Then we
have a text in James, which calls for joy under the Father’s faithful
purging: ‘My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers
trials; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and
entire, wanting nothing,’ (

John 1:2-4). Once more, we take the
words of Christian exultation which declare our fellowship with
God in the whole process and fruit of our purging: ‘And not only
so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation
worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed
abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us’
(

Romans 5:3-5). O that we might learn from these revelations of
the Father’s work, upon us and in us, quietly and joyfully to endure;.382
and rightly to interpret all that befalls us, only desiring that He may
fulfill in us all the good pleasure of His will, that we may be fruitful
in every good work” (Mr. C. Campbell).
“Now (better, ‘already’) ye are clean through the word which I
have spoken unto you,” (

John 15:3).
The purging or cleansing of the previous verse refers to the believer’s state;
the cleanness here describes his standing before God. The one is
progressive, the other absolute. The two things are carefully distinguished
all through. We have purified our souls in obeying the truth through the
Spirit (

1 Peter 1:22), yet we need to be purifying ourselves, even as
Christ is pure (

1 John 3:3). We are washed” (

1 Corinthians 6:11),
yet there is constant need that He who washed us from our sins at first
should daily wash our feet (

John 13:10). The Lord, having had occasion
to speak here of a purging which is constantly in process, graciously
stopped to assure the disciples that they were already clean. Note He
makes no exception — “ye”: the branches spoken of in the previous verses.
If the Lord had had in mind two entirely different classes in

John 15:2
(as almost all of the best commentators argue), namely, formal professors
in the former part of the verse and genuine believers in the latter, He would
necessarily have qualified His statement here. This is the more conclusive if
we contrast His words in

John 13:10: “Ye are clean, but not all”! Let
the reader refer back to our remarks upon

John 13:10 for a fuller
treatment of this cleanness.
“Abide in me” (

John 15:4). The force of this cannot be appreciated till
faith has laid firm hold of the previous verse: “Already ye are clean.”
“Brethren in Christ, what a testimony is this: He who speaks what he
knows and testifies what He has seen, declares us ‘clean every whit.’ Yea,
and He thus testifies in the very same moment as when He asserts that we
had need to have our feet washed; in the very same breath in which He
reveals our need of cleansing in order to further fruit-bearing. He would
thus assure us that the defilement which we contract in our walk as
pilgrims, and the impurity which we contract as branches do in nowise, nor
in the least degree, affect the absolute spotless purity which is ours in Him.
“Now in all study of the Word this should be a starting-point, the
acknowledgement of our real oneness with Christ, and our
cleanness in Him by His Word. It may be observed that He cannot
‘wash our feet’ till we know that we are cleansed ‘every whit’; and.383
we cannot go on to learn of Him what is needful fruit-bearing
unless we first drink in the Word, ‘Ye are already clean.’ We can
only receive His further instruction when we have well learned and
are holding fast the first lesson of His love — our completeness in
Him” (Mr. C. Campbell).
“Clean every whit,” Thou saidst it, Lord!
Shall one suspicion lurk?
Thine surely is a faithful Word,
And Thine a finished Work.
“Abide in me,” “To be” in Christ and “to abide” in Him are two different
things which must not be confounded. One must first be “in him” before he
can “abide in him.” The former respects a union effected by the creating-power
of God, and which can neither be dissolved nor suspended.
Believers are never exhorted to be “in Christ” — they are in Him by new
creation (

2 Corinthians 5:17;

Ephesians 2:10). But Christians are
frequently exhorted to abide in Christ, because this privilege and
experience may be interrupted. “To ‘abide,’ ‘continue,’ ‘dwell,’ ‘remain’ in
Christ — by all these terms is this one word translated — has always
reference to the maintenance of fellowship with God in Christ. The word
‘abide’ calls us to vigilance, lest at any time the experimental realization of
our union with Christ should be interrupted. To abide in Him, then, is to
have sustained conscious communion with Him” (Mr. Campbell). To abide
in Christ signifies the constant occupation of the heart with Him — a daily
active faith in Him which, so to speak, maintains the dependency of the
branch upon the vine, and the circulation of life and fatness of the vine in
the branch. What we have here is parallel with that other figurative
expression used by our Lord in

John 6:56: He that eateth my flesh, and
drinketh my blood, dwelleth (abideth) in me, and I in him.” This is but
another way of insisting upon the continuous exercise of faith in a crucified
and living Savior, deriving life and the sustenance of life from Him. As the
initial act of believing in Him is described as “coming” to Him, (“He that
cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never
thirst”:

John 6:35), so the continued activity of faith is described as
“abiding in him.” “Abide in me, and I in you” (

John 15:4). The two
things are quite distinct, though closely connected. Just as it is one thing to
be “in Christ,” and another to “abide in him,” so there is a real difference
between His being in us, and His abiding in us. The one is a matter of His
grace; the other of our responsibility. The one is perpetual, the other may.384
be interrupted. By our abiding in Him is meant the happy conscious
fellowship of our union with Him, in the discernment of what He is for us;
so by His abiding in us is meant the happy conscious recognition of His
presence, the assurance of His goodness, grace and power — Himself the
recourse of our soul in everything.
“As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abides in the
vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me (

John 15:4).
“Thus our Lord enforces the necessity of maintaining fellowship.
He is not only the source of all fruit, but He also puts forth His
power while there is personal appropriation of what He is for us,
and in us. And this, if we receive it, will lead us to a right judgment
of ourselves and our service. In the eyes of our own brethren, and
in our own esteem, we may maintain a goodly appearance as
fruitbearing branches. But whatever our own judgment or that of
others, unless the apparent springs from ‘innermost fellowship and
communion’ the true Vine will never own it as His fruit.
“Moreover, all this may, by His blessing, bring us to see the cause
of our imperfect or sparse fruit bearing. Thousands of Christians
are complaining of barrenness; but they fail to trace their barrenness
to its right source — the meagerness of their communion with
Christ. Consequently, they seek fruitfulness in activities, often right
in themselves, but which, while He is unrecognized, can never yield
any fruit. In such condition, they ought rather to cry, ‘Our leanness!
Our leanness’; and they ought to know that leanness can only be
remedied by that abiding in Christ, and He in them, which ‘fills the
soul with marrow and its fatness.’ ‘Those that be planted in the
house of the Lord (an Old Testament form for “abiding in Him”)
shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bring forth fruit in
old age; they shall be fat and flourishing’ (

Psalm 92:13, 14). We
are surely warranted to say, Take heed to the fellowship, and the
fruit will spring forth” (Mr. C. Campbell).
“I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in
him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (

John 15:5).
This is very blessed, coming in just here. It is a word of assurance. As we
contemplate the failure of Israel as God’s vine of old, and as we review our
own past resolutions and attempts, we are discouraged and despondent..385
This is met by the announcement, “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” It is
not a question of your sufficiency; yea, let your insufficiency be admitted,
as settled once for all. In your self you are no better than a branch severed
from the vine-dry, dead. But “he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same
bringeth forth much fruit.”
“No figure could more forcibly express the complete dependence of
the believer on Christ for all fruit-bearing than this. A branch
cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine. In itself it has
no resources though in union with vine it is provided with life. This
is precisely the believer’s condition: ‘Christ liveth in me.’ The
branch bears the clusters, but it does not produce them. It bears
what the vine produces; and so the result is expressed by the
Apostle, ‘to me to live is Christ.’ It is important that in this respect,
as well as with reference to righteousness before God, we should
be brought to the end of self with all its vain efforts and strivings.
And then there comes to us the assurance of unfailing resources in
Another” (“Waymarks in the Wilderness”) —
“For without me (better ‘severed from me’) ye can do nothing”
(

John 15:5).
Clearly this refers not to the vital union existing between Christ and the
believer, which shall never be broken, either by his own volition or the will
of God, through all eternity (

Romans 8:38-39); but to the interruption
of fellowship and dependency upon Him, mentioned in the immediate
context. This searching word is introduced here to enforce our need of
heeding what had just been said in the previous verse and repeated at the
beginning of this.
“Severed from me ye can do nothing.” There are many who believe this in
a general way, but who fail to apply it in detail. They know that they
cannot do the important things without Christ’s aid, but how many of the
little things we attempt in our own strength! No wonder we fail so often.
“Without me ye can do nothing”.
“Nothing that is spiritually good; no, not any thing at all, be it little
or great, easy or difficult to be performed; cannot think a good
thought, speak a good word, or do a good action; can neither begin
one, nor when it is begun, perfect it” (Dr. John Gill)..386
But mark it well, the Lord did not say, “Without you I can do nothing.” In
gathering out His elect, and in building up His Church, He employs human
instrumentality; but that is not a matter of necessity, but of choice, with
Him; He could “do” without them, just as well as with them.
“Severed from me ye can do nothing.” Urgently do we need this warning.
Not only will the allowance of any known sin break our fellowship with
Him, but concentration on any thing but Himself will also surely do it.
Satan is very subtle. If only he can get us occupied with ourselves, our
fruit-bearing, or our fruit, his purpose is accomplished. Faith is nothing
apart from its object, and is no longer in operation when it becomes
occupied with itself. Love, too, is in exercise only while it is occupied with
its beloved.
“There is a disastrous delusion in this matter when, under the plea
of witnessing for Christ and relating their experience, men are
tempted to parade their own attainments: their love, joy and peace,
their zeal in service, their victory in conflict. And Satan has no
more effectual method of severing the soul from Christ, and
arresting the bringing forth of fruit to the glory of God, than when
he can persuade Christians to feast upon their own fruit, instead of
eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of man. But shall
we not bear witness for Christ? Yes, verily, but let your testimony
be of Him, not of yourself” (“Waymarks in the Wilderness”).
“If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is
withered; and men gather them, and cast into the fire, and they are
burned” (

John 15:6).
This is another verse which has been much misunderstood, and it is really
surprising to discover how many able commentators have entirely missed
its meaning. With scarcely an exception, Calvinistic expositors suppose
that Christ here referred to a different class from what had been before Him
in the three previous verses. Attention is called to the fact that Christ did
not say, “If a branch abide not in me he is cast forth,” but “If a man abide
not in me.” But really this is inexcusable in those who are able, in any
measure, to consult the Greek. The word “man” is not found in the original
at all! Literally rendered it is, “unless any one abide in me he is cast out as
the branch” (Bagster’s Interlinear). The simple and obvious meaning of
these words of Christ is this: If any one of the branches, any believer,
continues out of fellowship with Me, he is “cast forth.” It could not be said.387
of any one who had never “come” to Christ that He does not abide in Him.
This is made the more apparent by the limitation in this very verse: “he is
cast forth as a branch.” Let it be remembered that the central figure here
employed by the Lord has reference to our sojourn in this world, and the
bringing forth of fruit to the glory of the Father. The “casting forth” is
done by the Husbandman, and evidently had in view the stripping of the
believer of the gifts and opportunities which he failed to improve. It is
similar to the salt “losing its savor” (

Matthew 5:13). It is parallel with

Luke 8:18: “And whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that
which he seemeth to have.”
f17
It is analogous to that admonition in 2 John
8: “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have
wrought, but that we receive a full reward.”
But what is meant by, “Men gather them, and cast into the fire, and they
are burned”? Observe, first, the plural pronouns. It is not “men gather him
and cast into the fire, and he is burned,” as it would most certainly have
been had an unbeliever, a mere professor, been in view. The change of
number here is very striking, and evidences, once more, the minute
accuracy of Scripture. “Unless any one abide in me, he is east forth as a
branch, and men gather them and cast into the fire and they are burned.”
The “them” and the “they” are what issues from the one who has been cast
forth “as a branch.” And what is it that issues from such a one — what but
dead works: “wood, hay, stubble”! and what is to become of his “dead
works.”

1 Corinthians 3:15 tells us: “If any man’s work shall be burned
(the very word used in

John 15:6!), he shall suffer loss: but he himself
shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” Lot is a pertinent example: he was out of
fellowship with the Lord, he ceased to bear fruit to His glory, and his dead
works were all burned up in Sodom; yet he himself was saved!
One other detail should be noticed. In the original it is not “men gather
them,” but “they gather them.” Light is thrown on this by

Matthew
13:41, 42:
“The Son of man shall send forth his angels and they shall gather
out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do
iniquity: And shall east them into a furnace of fire: There shall be
wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Note the two distinct items here: the angels gather “all things that offend”
and “them which do iniquity.” In the light of

John 15:6 the first of these.388
actions will be fulfilled at the session of the judgment-seat of Christ (

2
Corinthians 5:10), the second when He returns to the earth.
Here then is a most solemn warning and heart-searching prospect for every
Christian. Either your life and my life is, as the result of continuous
fellowship with Christ, bringing forth fruit to the glory of the Father, fruit
which will remain; or, because of neglect of communion with Him, we are
in immense danger of being set aside as His witnesses on earth, to bring
forth only that which the fire will consume in a coming Day. May the Holy
Spirit apply the words of the Lord Jesus to each conscience and heart.
Studying the following questions will prepare for our next lesson:
1. What is the connection between verse 7 and the context?
2. How is “ye shall ask what ye will” in verse 7 to be qualified?
3. What is meant by “so shall ye be my disciples,” verse 8?
4. What is the relation between verses 9-12 and the subject of fruit-bearing?
5. What constituted Christ’s “joy,” verse 11?
6. What is suggested by “friends,” verses 13-15?
7. Why does Christ bring in election in verse 16?.389
FOOTNOTES
ft8
Where the form of death was not specified, it was by stoning.
ft9
See the author’s booklet, “The Atonement,” also his “The Sovereignty
of God.” Both are obtainable from the publishers of this book.
ft10
See the author’s booklet, “Christian Liberty,” obtainable from the
publishers, 10 cents. (In 1945, – Ages ed.)
ft11
Let the reader carefully re-read this paragraph.
ft12
It Is characteristic of John to give us her name. for he presents Christ as
God manifest in the flesh, therefore everything comes out into the light:
cf. the fact that John alone tells us the name of the priest’s servant,
whose ear the Savior healed (

John 18:10).
ft13
The only apparent exception is the case of Jairus’ daughter.
ft14
Other points which have occasioned difficulty to some will be dealt with
in the course of this exposition.
ft15
This wonderful and Important prophecy is carefully, interestingly, and
most helpfully dealt with in The Seventy Weeks and the Great
Tribulation by Mr. Philip Mauro. New, revised edition now available
($2.50) from the Bible Truth Depot, Swengel, Pa. Don’t fail to secure
a copy. (I.C.H.)
ft16
The above quotations are from an article by the late Mr. Inglis. in
“Waymarks in the Wilderness.”
ft17
See our comments on this verse under

John 9:17.

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