But after this Jesus walked in Galilee, &c. Not immediately, but about six months after. The incidents of the former chapter took place in March, the feast of tabernacles was in September. But Christ lived six months after this, to the following March. All which follows Christ said and did in the last months of His life. S. John then omits here the events of these six months, amongst which are the defence of the disciples for eating with unwashed hands; the healing of the daughter of the Canaanitish woman; St. Peter"s testimony, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God, for which. He was constituted the head of the Church; the paying the tribute-money; His reproof of the Apostles for disputing who was the greatest, &c. For all this which S. John omits had been recorded by the other Evangelists.
Jesus walked in Galilee. He was already in Galilee, but it means He went to and fro in Galilee, preaching the kingdom of God.
For He would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews (i.e., the chief of the Jews) sought to kill him, because He kept not the Sabbath, as the Jews did, but healed the sick on that day, and called God His father, and consequently asserted that He Himself was God (see chap. v18). It appears that Jesus did not go up to Jerusalem at either the Passover or Pentecost of this year. And this because He knew the death that was devised against Him, before His appointed time; not because He feared the Jews, or dreaded death, but to set us an example of flying from our persecutors, till God otherwise reveals, and delivers us into their hands, as S. Athanasius did. (So say S. Augustine and others.)
Ver2.—But the Jews" feast of Tabernacles was at hand. They kept it for seven days, living in booths, hastily constructed of branches of trees, in memory of the forty years" wandering in the wilderness. The Syriac version for Scenopegia reads Conopea quite wrongly. For these were mosquito curtains, not booths. Abulensis (in Leviticus 23:34) gives a most erroneous derivation of σκηνοπηγία, and Plutarch from not knowing Hebrew was equally wrong in regarding this feast as merely a Bacchanalian orgy, mistaking also the meaning of Sabbath.
Ver3.—But His brethren said to Him. Not the sons of Joseph, as Leontius, Cyril, and Euthymius supposed, for both Joseph and Mary remained virgins; nor yet James and John, as Chrysostom thinks, for they were Apostles already, but kinsmen of the Blessed Virgin, or even of Joseph (see S. Luke 3:23-38 ad fin.) Some, that is, of His kinsfolk, not all; for some believed in Him, some not.
Depart hence and go into Judea. From Galilee and the ignoble Capharnaum to the coming feast of tabernacles, to make Thyself known to them by Thy doctrine and miracles. They wish to draw Him away from Galilee, to be known and renowned at Jerusalem.
That Thy disciples also may see the works that Thou doest. Thou, 0 Jesus, our kinsman, art performing wondrous works in a corner of Galilee, before Thy few and poor disciples in Galilee, come with us to Jerusalem, and work similar works there; that Thy disciples, whom Thou hast there obtained by Thy preaching, and wilt hereafter gain by Thy miracles, not from the people only, but also from the Priests, Scribes, and chiefs of the people, may be instructed or confirmed in Thy faith, and receive thee as a Prophet and the Messiah. For they wished that Christ should come especially to their notice, that the chief rulers should proclaim Jesus to be the Messiah, and propose Him as such for the reception of the people. For it was theirs to decide about the faith, the prophets, and the Messiah, and what they decided that the people followed and did.
Ver4.—For no man doeth anything in secret and he himself seeketh to be known openly. Εν παζζησία properly means to be at liberty; but here, as opposed to "secretly," it means "openly" (see John 5:13; John 16:25, John 16:29; John 18:20; and S. Mark 8:32). So Maldonatus an others.
If Thou doest this, manifest Thyself to the world. "If" does not imply doubt, but means assertion, and is the same as "since." Since Thou doest such great and wondrous works in Galilee, do the same in Jerusalem, that there all Israel, and from them the whole world, may know who Thou art, and what dignity, power, and virtue Thou hast received from the Father. For as Raphael saith, "It is goo d to keep close the secret of a king, but it is honourable to reveal and make known the works of God" ( Tobit 12:7). They make the praise of Christ and the glory of God a cloke for their own covetousness and ambition: for they wished that as Christ became renowned by the fame of His miracles, they as His kinsman might become renowned, and honoured by the people, and be loaded with gifts: and might, moreover, secure the favour of the rulers and priests, and then, as they hoped, rise to high offices in the state. Just as when one is made Pope, or Cardinal, or Bishop, his kinsfolk at once flock about him, to gain through him honours and wealth. For "all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ."
Ver5.—For neither did His brethren believe in Him. They so freely and boldly urged Jesus to come with them to Jerusalem, because they did not fully believe that He was the Christ. For had they believed it, they would not have dared to speak to Him so freely. So says Euthymius. For though they saw Him work so many miracles, and did not doubt their truth, yet they doubt whether He were the Messiah and the Son of God. For though they wished it to be true, and partly believed it on account of His many miracles, yet on the other hand they doubted when they saw Him so poor and despised. To make certain they urge Christ to go with them to Jerusalem, where the Scribes and Priests could, on examination had, declare Him to be the Christ, and thus He, and they through Him, might gain honour and celebrity.
Ver6.—Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come, but your time is always ready. My time is appointed of the Father, but it must be put off for a few days, through the hatred with which the Jews pursue me. For this reason I will go up in a few days, but with secrecy. But do ye go first, for any time is fitting and appropriate for you. I will follow you secretly. (See Jansenius, F. Lucas, and others.)
On the other hand, S. Chrysostom and others (see Maldonatus) consider that the time spoken of is the time of His death, which had not yet come. The first meaning is the best.
Ver7.—The world cannot hate you, &c. You (my kinsmen) can go at any time to Jerusalem without risk, because ye do not oppose the Scribes, but rather favour, and pay them court. But I, if I go up openly with you, put Myself in manifest peril of My life. So S. Cyril, who also adds the reason, "For a mind given to pleasures, greatly resents being called away from them;" for the Scribes were unwilling to abandon their pleasures, their luxuries, their injustice, and therefore hated Christ, who wished to draw them away from them, as the wise man says (Wisdom ii12).
Ver8.—Go ye up unto this feast. For ye have no danger to fear (says Euthymius).
But I go not up yet to this feast. I am waiting for the anger of the Scribes to subside. For they are looking out for Me to kill Me at the beginning of the feast, but after three days I shall come up secretly and with less danger by myself. For it is clear from verse10 that He came up a little while after. It is probable that Christ said, as the Vulgate reads, "I go not up," for had he said, "I go not up yet," his kinsmen would have proposed to wait for Him. But Christ"s meaning was, I go not up yet, though He did not say so to His kinsmen, to relieve their vexation. Secondly, S. Augustine and Cyril explain "I go not up on this first day of the Feast, but afterwards on the fourth day." But the truer view is that He determined to go up on the first day ( John 7:14). Maldonatus explains, "I go not up as ye wish and suppose, as a mere man to be honoured and followed by the people. But I shall soon go up thither as the Messiah and Son of God to teach them the way of salvation, and thus seek to extend His glory and not My own. But this seems somewhat forced.
Ver9, 10.—When he had said these words, &c. Christ appears not to have taken the straight road through Samaria, but to have crossed the Jordan, and after dismissing the multitudes, to have gone up to Jerusalem with a few of His favoured disciples, in secret (see Matthew 19:1-2; Luke 9:51-53; Mark 9:29, Mark 10:1).
Ver11.—The Jews therefore sought Him at the feast, and said, Where is He? S. Chrysostom says that on a feast day they were always disposed to murder, and they endeavoured to catch Him on feast days. And Euthymius, "Admirable work for feast days, in making them occasions for murder; and that on the very day they ought to have been searching for Christ in order to believe on Him they were aiming only at His death." And thus in our days many on the feast days on which they ought to be making their peace with God, only offend Him by their gross sins and blaspheming, making their feasts to the devil and not to God; this is the fraud and suggestion of the devil, who takes away the service due to God, and appropriates it to himself
Where is He, that impostor, and deceiver of the people? In their extreme wrath, says S. Chrysostom, they could not bear to mention Him by name.
Ver12.—And there was much murmuring, &c. He would make Himself the founder of a new faction, and stir up sedition and rebellion.
A good man, nay, a teacher and a prophet; this was the opinion of those who had heard Him teaching, and seen His miracles in Galilee. The contrary was the opinion of the Scribes and Rulers, and the multitude who followed them.
Ver13.—Howbeit no man spake, &c., i.e., from fear of the Scribes, Pharisees, and Chief Priests. S. John speaks of them merely as Jews, so as not to derogate from the authority of the Scribes and Priests, and also, as Cyril says, he counted it wrong to term persons so estrayed from holiness, priests or elders. "No one," i.e., of those who said that Jesus was a good man, says Euthymius; or as S. Augustine says, "They loudly proclaimed, "He seduces the people;" "He is a good man," they spoke in suppressed whispers."
But about the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple. On the fourth or fifth day, for it lasted for eight days.
S. Augustine, Theophylact, and others think that Christ entered Jerusalem and the temple on the same day: for when He came to the city He used first of all to visit the temple, as an act of piety, and many Christians follow his example. On the other hand, Toletus, Maldonatus, and others think that He went up shortly after His kinsfolk, so as to be present at the beginning of the feast, but that He did not enter the temple till the fourth day. This the language of S. John both here and in verse10 seems to require. And besides Jesus, as a teacher and pattern of religion, wished for the edification of others to keep the whole of this festival. (See Leviticus 23:43.) Moreover, they were required to erect their booths on the first day of the feast, which Jesus probably did, unless you suppose that He was taken into the booth of a disciple or friend. Coming up secretly in this way on the first day of the feast He ran no risk, unless He entered the temple, which He did not do till the fourth day, remaining hid in a booth for the first three days. His first entry then was in secret, His second was public, the one to keep the feast in the booths outside, and then afterwards to teach in the temple.
But why did He not at once enter the temple? First, as S. Augustine and others reply, in order that the anger of the Scribes and Chief Priests who lived in the temple might cool down. (2.) His remaining concealed was for example"s sake and from His weakness as man, as His coming forth afterwards was a proof of Divine power, says S. Augustine, and Bede after him. (3.) To create in His expectant hearers a greater desire of hearing Him after such delay. (4.) That they might be more free to hear Him, when unemployed in the necessary arrangements for the feast.
And taught, after His own manner, the things which concerned salvation, and led to the kingdom of heaven; and publicly too before the Scribes and Rulers who hated Him. Behold here the nobleness of His mind in intrepidly discharging His office in the midst of danger. For although the anger of the Scribes had somewhat cooled down by the delay of three days, yet it could be easily rekindled by His teaching thus in public. But Jesus, nobly despised it, both because He was ready to be killed by them, and also because He knew that God would thwart their designs against Him, because the appointed time of His death had not come. By His three days" concealment He teaches us prudence, and by His coming forth and preaching openly on the fourth day He gave us a pattern of boldness, to discharge resolutely the duty imposed on us by God, even at the peril of our life, in sure trust that He will either deliver us from danger or give us strength and fortitude to bear and overcome it.
Ver15.—And the Jews wondered, saying, &c. "They marvelled," says Cyril, "when they saw in Him such unheard-of wisdom and power of speech;" for, as Theophylact says, "He spake wondrous words, restraining and changing their minds in a wondrous manner," so that their fury was changed into love and admiration of Christ. "For they heard Him," says S. Augustine, "disputing about the law, and adducing its testimony," and explaining it with such grace and manner as was not human but divine. For, as he adds, "Many knew where He was born, and how brought up, but had never seen Him learning anything." And hence the Scribes ought to have inferred that His great learning and wisdom had not been acquired by study, but infused by God. But blinded and stupefied by hatred they stand still in wonder, and proceed not to investigate the origin of that which surprises them. So S. Chrysostom. And for this very cause God willed that Jesus should leap up into the chair of learning, not from the schools, but from the carpenter"s trade, to the end that all might acknowledge that His learning, was not taught by man but inspired by God.
Ver16.—Jesus answered, &c. My doctrines are not My inventions nor the result of My study. They did not primarily and originally proceed from Me, but from God the Father. He, as I am God, communicated to Me His own omniscience, But, as I am man, He gave and infused into Me His own Blessed knowledge of all things, according to that of Isaiah 11:2. "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him," &c. So S. Chrysostom and others, who observe that in this very way Christ implies that He is God: as if He said, "I together with the Divine Essence have derived all My omniscience and doctrine from the Father." As S. Augustine says (Tract29), "What is the doctrine of the Father, but the Word of the Father? Christ Himself, therefore, is the doctrine of the Father, if He is the Word of the Father. But because a Word cannot be of no one, but of some one, He called Himself His own doctrine, and yet not His own, because He is the Word of the Father. For what is so much thine as thyself? and what is so little thine as thyself if thou art from some one else?"
Ver17.—If any one is willing, &c. That is, something invented by Me, and therefore disagreeing, or contrary to the will of God. As S. Chrysostom says, "If anybody has love of virtue, he will understand the force of My words that they come from God. For of Him cometh every virtue, of which I am the earnest teacher. For he who loves to observe the commands of God in this matter, will love and observe My Word, because I do not say or do anything contrary to what is pleasing and commanded by God;" tacitly hinting that they loved vice, and therefore were opposed to the teaching both of God and Himself. "Put away," says Chrysostom, "this doubt, your anger and malice and intense hatred of Me, and nothing will then keep you from acknowledging that My words are those of God. But now these tempers obscure your judgment, and if you put them aside you would think otherwise."
Ver18.—He that speaketh of Himself, &c But on the other hand Cyril concludes with, "He who seeks not God"s glory but his own, is a liar, and full of deceit"—a liar, because under pretence of observing the law he puts forth his own will; and full of deceit, because he dares to prefer his own commands to those of God. This then is the second proof that Christ gives, that He speaks not of Himself. Put logically it is thus, He that speaks for Himself seeks his own glory. But I seek not my own glory; therefore I speak not of Myself. Heretics and philosophers teach their own opinions, and call their followers after their own names. For in either case, it is desire for fame which causes heresies and sects.
Unrighteousness, that is fraud, craft, deception, for Christ teaches sincerely and truly what he believes will please God and promote His glory, while others seek their own glory, and use flattery and other arts to extort it from men for themselves.
Ver19, 20.—Did not Moses give you the law? And yet, &c. The primary sense is, no wonder ye do not accept Mine and My Father"s law, since ye keep not the law of Moses, which ye value so much and urge against Me. For it strictly forbids murder ( Exodus 23:7). So S. Augustine and others. But secondly, F. Lucas thus explains it more profoundly and more closely to the context. "Ye accuse Me of disregarding the law, and breaking the Sabbath by healing the paralytic. But ye equally break it by circumcising a man, which is a longer and more cruel act than healing with a word. Ye are therefore more deserving of death than I am."
Ver20.—The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil, who seeketh to kill Thee? That is, Thou art mad as Saul was when possessed with a devil. Or more strictly, it is the devil who instigates Thee to make this false charge of murder against us. We never thought of it. These are the words of the people, some of whom thought well, and others ill of Christ, but yet did not wish to kill Him. But that was the wish of the Scribes and rulers, who mingled with the crowd. Christ therefore glances at them, and openly proclaims their secret plans for killing Him, which were fully known to Him, thus shewing Him to be God.
Ver21.—Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. The work of healing the paralytic. Jesus did not return taunt for taunt, but forbearingly suppressed his feelings, and with gentleness and prudence pulled up their charge by the roots. "He was not troubled, but calm in the possession of His truth; He returned not evil for evil, or railing for railing, though, if He had said to them, Ye have a devil, He would certainly have spoken truth; for they would never have said such things to Him who is Truth itself, if the false teaching of the devil had not ensnared them.
Ye wonder, and are indignant, as though I had done contrary to the law. "Ye are disturbed and agitated," says S. Chrysostom. "Ye condemn Me," says Cyril. "Ye seek to kill Me," Euthymius. The order of events is inverted. For astonishment caused indignation, indignation disturbance, disturbance the contriving His death.
Ver22.—For this cause Moses, &c. (1.) Some, as Theophylact and Maldonatus, connect this with the preceding verse, "Ye all marvel at this My healing on the Sabbath." (2.) Euthymius and Jansen explain thus, "To keep you from wondering, just consider what I am going to say about circumcision."
(3.) S. Cyril, Toletus and F. Lucas explain it thus: "Though Moses gave you circumcision, it was because he wished studiously to observe the tradition of the fathers, and yet on the Sabbath day, which Moses also authorised, ye circumcise a man. (4.) It is on account of the surprise you feel that I add an argument from the rite of circumcision, which ye perform by Moses" own order on the Sabbath.
Not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers. The patriarch Abraham, and not Moses, instituted circumcision. And he adds this to teach them not to rely to such an extent on the law of Moses alone, respecting the Sabbath, or to neglect the laws of those who preceded him. But on the other hand, if those earlier laws are at variance with the law of Moses, the elder laws should prevail and the law of Moses give way to them. And, thus, the law of circumcision given to Abraham cancelled the law of the Sabbath given to Moses, that if a child were born on the Sabbath, he was obliged to be circumcised precisely on the eighth day, and that his circumcision could not possibly be deferred to the day following. If then the law of Moses was obliged to give way to the law of Abraham, much more should it give way to the Law of Christ and God, which orders us to do good, if we can, to the sore afflicted, even on the Sabbath, more especially if we do so quickly, and in a word, as Christ did. And ye on the Sabbath day circumcise a man. And, i.e., therefore, because the law of circumcision was anterior, and given to Abraham by God, it overrules the Sabbath, which was instituted afterwards by Moses at the command of God. And therefore, if the eighth day from the child"s birth is the Sabbath, ye circumcise him with great preparation and trouble, that the law of God given to Abraham may be kept.
Ver23.—If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, &c. If circumcision, which in its own nature is a servile, troublesome, and tedious work, as well as one causing pain, is not only lawful, but even commanded to be done on the Sabbath; why am not I equally allowed to heal on the Sabbath a man who has been paralysed for so many years, and with a word to restore him to health, and that too to the alone praise and glory of God? For the law of piety and kindness is a law of nature, to which every law, human and divine, such as that of the Sabbath, should give way. Observe here, "the whole man." For as Euthymius remarks, since his whole body was shattered by palsy, He rendered it entirely whole. Christ appositely compares the healing to circumcision, because as a superfluous part of the body is cut off by the one, so the palsy, which was attacking his whole body, was cut off by the other. But circumcision took place with pain and wounds, the healing by Christ with pleasure and complete health, for He healed the whole man, that is, body and soul together. Christ appears to have cut off from the soul of this sick man his vices and sins, and to have justified and sanctified him, as well as others who were healed by Him, just as circumcision by circumcising the flesh circumcised the soul also; cut away from it original sin, and clothed it with the grace and righteousness of God.
Ver24.—Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment. He charges the Jews with acceptance of persons, in acquitting Moses, or rather themselves, in a like matter, but accusing and condemning Jesus. Ye accuse Me as a Sabbath-breaker only for healing a sick man by my divine power, whereas ye think it lawful by the law of Moses to circumcise and wound a child, to heal his wound by applying plasters, and to staunch the blood, which is much more tedious, painful and horrible. And this is because ye judge not according to the truth of things, but according to the dignity of the persons. For Me ye contemn as vile, poor and hated; but ye set up yourselves with Moses as the chiefs and teachers of the people. For were ye to judge according to our doings, ye ought to acquit Me as well as Moses and yourselves; or if ye condemn Me, ye should condemn both Moses and yourselves. For I healed the man on the Sabbath, but ye with Moses on the very same day first wound and afterwards heal the child. And my object was even more holy, because I did it only for the glory of God, to show that I was the Messiah. So say S. Augustine, S. Chrysostom, and others. Many think that Christ here put Himself above Moses. But it would be more fitly said that Christ here compared Himself with the Jews, who, according to the law of Moses, circumcised on the Sabbath. But Moses never expressly commanded this. It was merely inferred from his words.
Ver25.—Therefore said some of them of Jerusalem. Those, that is, that were convinced by Christ"s argument. Many of the people at Jerusalem had a leaning towards Him, but could not openly show it for fear of the rulers.
Is not this He whom they seek to kill? They knew, says S. Augustine, how savagely He was sought for. The others then said falsely and craftily, "Who seeketh to kill Thee?"
Ver26.—And lo He speaketh openly, and they say nothing against Him. What means this great silence? says Nonnus. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? They know it, or easily could have known it, but they, blinded by their pride and hatred, persecuted Him to the death; but they were restrained by His divine power from laying hands on Him.
Ver27.—But we know this man, &c. We know that His parents are Joseph and Mary, and they themselves confessed elsewhere in general that they knew He was to be born in Bethlehem of the seed of David. But these were the words of the ignorant people, who thought that Christ would suddenly appear to the world from unknown ancestors, that He would remain hid in Bethlehem for a long time, or else be carried away to a distance, be there brought up to man"s estate, and then appear unexpectedly in Judea. Other strange myths were invented concerning Him, derived mainly from wrong interpretations of Isaiah 53:8, Hebrews 7:3, Micah 5:2, and Psalm 109:3 (see Vulg.), "Before the morning star I begat Thee from the womb:" all which passages should be understood of His divine and not of His human nature. But the Jews considered Him a mere man, and thought that He had been begotten from eternity in Bethlehem. On which account Christ teaches them that they knew His human, but not His divine origin. So Toletus and others.
Ver28.—Jesus therefore cried in the temple, &c. I grant what you say, that ye know My ancestry and My parents; though ye are much mistaken. Ye do not know them; for the Jews knew not the God- head of Christ, regarding Him only as the son of Joseph. But S. Chrysostom and Maldonatus explain thus: "Ye know Me, i.e., ye ought, and are able to know that I am the Messiah. For I have proved this from prophecy, and confirmed it by miracles."
He cried, as showing that He knew their secret murmurings. And the things which they spake secretly (says S. Chrysostom), He openly proclaimed, and confounded them. In order also by His loud speaking to gain attention and add weight to His preaching.
I am not come of Myself, but sent of the Father. But He is true in faithfully and truthfully fulfilling in My person the promises made to Abraham, and David. But ye know him not, i.e., to be My Father, and that He sent Me to redeem the world. Or otherwise, "ye know Him not, ye do not obey, love, or worship Him, as though ye knew Him." So Theophylact.
Ver29.—But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He hath sent Me. "Born," saith S. Augustine, "by divine and eternal generation, inasmuch as I am His own proper and natural Son:" and He sent Me "into the world by My Incarnation." "See," saith Theophylact, "the two natures in Christ set forth in this passage, for by His saying, "I am of Him," His Divine Substance is set forth; but His human when He says, "and He sent Me."" Christ here refutes them of Jerusalem, who excused themselves for not believing in Him, because they knew His parents, whereas no one was to know the parents of Christ. For He shows that they knew not either His Divine generation from the Father, nor His human generation, by having been Incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary; and that this was no hindrance to their duty of believing in Him as the Messiah, even though His parentage were not known.
Ver30.—They therefore sought to take him, but no man laid hands on him. Who were they? asks S. Chrysostom. Not the multitude, but the priests, who hated Jesus because the people preferred Him to them, and He was held to be the Messiah. Because his hour was not yet come, the hour at which He had resolved to die (says Theophylact), for when He thought it the time for Him to suffer He gave Himself to His crucifiers. This manifestly shows the wisdom of the Saviour "in not wishing to die except at the fitting and suitable time which was destined for Him. For the passion of Christ was free and voluntary, not of force or compulsion. His hour means the hour chosen by Himself, and determined on for His death." S. Cyril here argues at length against the brethren who thought that some hours were favourable, and others unfavourable to man. For he teaches that times as well as men are subjected to and regulated by God"s providence.
Ver31.—But many of the people, &c. For the people were more simple-minded, candid, and eager for their own salvation, than the priests, who hated Jesus, whom the people regarded as the Messiah, while they themselves were but little regarded; which greatly excited their hatred against Christ. When Christ cometh, &c. Why then should we not accept this man who is here as the Christ? For it is prudence to prefer a certainty to an uncertainty, and the present to the future. For they had seen many miracles wrought, of which S. John says nothing, as having been related at length by the other Evangelists. So says S. Chrysostom, "The people conjectured rightly, being led, as it were, on their own feet to proper belief, through the greatness of what they had seen, but waiting for the teaching of the rulers respecting Christ;" and further on, "the head (as is said) became the tail. For the rulers simply follow, and consenting to the wickedness of the Pharisees make a headlong attack on Christ."
Ver32.—The Pharisees heard, &c. As though He were exciting the people to sedition (Euthymius); but more truly from envy. The Greek adds "the chief Priests." The Pharisees belonged to the Council, and accused Jesus before the chief priests, and drew them over to their resolve to kill Jesus.
Ver33.—Jesus therefore said unto them, &c., that is, to the officers of the chief priests, to win them over (says Chrysostom) by showing that He knew the cause of their coming, "and that they might tell it to their masters." "Yet a little while," I will not for long trouble your masters, for I am weary of dwelling with murderers. "I will fly from the ungodly," says Cyril. "I will preach for six months more among you, till the Passover. For then will be My time, appointed by the Father, to die for the salvation of the world. It is in vain that ye now seek to kill Me. Ye can do nothing against God"s will. Ye are labouring in vain, and kicking against the pricks." Christ here displays His greatness of mind, and His divine foreknowledge and power, wherewith He laughs their efforts to scorn, and disperses them as spiders" webs. I go; that is, I shall soon go, signifying that His death was voluntary, says Theophylact, quoting S. Chrysostom. It was in vain that they attempted violence against Him. "I go" means "I will go of My own accord and give up myself to you for bonds, scourging and death." To him that sent me. This signifies (1.) that He would go willingly, (2.) that the persecution of the rulers would do Him no hurt (so Chrysostom and Euthymius). (3.) He would alarm them, for, going to the Father, He would declare to Him their hatred towards Him, and demand punishment. So S. Chrysostom and S. Cyril. "In vain ye sharpen against Me the sword of wickedness. Ye will not make life subject to death; I shall ascend into heaven, bearing before angels and men the accusation of your wickedness. For the first will wonder at His return, and the others, going forth to meet Him, will ask "What are these wounds in Thy hands?" And I will answer, "With these was I wounded in the house of My beloved"" ( Zechariah 13:6).
Ver34.—Ye shall seek Me, &c. Ye will seek for another Messiah, but ye will not find Him, for there is no other Christ but Myself. So Toletus. But this is far from clear, and not to the point. It means more plainly and simply: When ye hear that I have risen, and by My disciples am working miracles, ye will seek to kill Me again, and thus utterly extirpate My name and My religion. But ye will not find Me, for I shall ascend with glory into heaven, and though ye slay My Apostles, I will put others in their place to propagate My doctrine and Church through all the world. So Rupertus.
But (4.) Jansen and others explain thus. After My death and ascension many of you who despised Me, will by the preaching of the Apostles desire to see and hear Me, but will not find Me because I go up to heaven. So Cyril, who teaches that a blessing should be embraced when present, lest afterward we should seek for it in vain. For opportunity has locks (of hair) in front (as is said), but is bald behind.
Morally. Learn to admire and imitate Christ"s calmness and patience in answering. "For," says S. Cyril, "a mind devoted to God ought to avoid all assaults of anger, and to take pleasure in gentle thoughts. Labour greatly to be versed in endurance, that thou mayest appear to all to bear adversities patiently, to have a gentle mind, and not to speak unseemly words even against thine enemies."
Ver35.—The Jews therefore said, &c.
Ver36.—What is this saying that He said, . . . and where I am, thither ye cannot come? That is to the Gentiles scattered throughout the world. Hence the Epistles written to them are called Catholic or universal. The Jews scornfully termed the Gentiles "dispersed," whereas they themselves were gathered together in one spot, and again because they were "dispersed" among many errors and superstitions, while the Jews were united in one orthodox faith and served the one true and only God with one mind.
The Jews did not understand Christ"s meaning, because they did not believe that He would go up again to heaven. And yet they spake the truth, for when the Jews rejected the faith, the Apostles transferred it to the Gentiles (see Acts 13:46).
Ver37.—But in the last day, the great day of the feast, &c. This was called the day of the assembly or gathering, when the people in a body went to the temple. Christ therefore wished to implant in the people, as they were departing, not merely a longing for Himself, and doubts respecting His religion, but to bring it keenly home to them, just as a preacher should do at the end of his discourse "Since they were going home," says S. Chrysostom, "He gives them saving food for their journey."
Symbolically. The feast of tabernacles was joyful, and thus a type of the resurrection and joy of the blessed, to which Christ just before said He was going. So S. Cyril.
If any one thirst for his own salvation, and a happy and blessed eternity (for these we should especially thirst for and desire, as the highest good), "let him come to Me," i.e., believe in Me, and draw from Me Gospel truth, yea the Holy Spirit Himself, with all His gifts and virtues, for He will lead him to heavenly glory, where all his desires will be fully satisfied (comp. Isaiah 55:1).
Ver38.—He that believeth in Me, as the Scripture saith, i.e., as he ought, by faith, moulded by love: he that so believeth as also to obey Me and My commands.
Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Where is this said? (1.) Rupertus, S. Thomas, and S. Jerome say in Proverbs 5:16, "Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad." (2.) F. Lucas in Isaiah 58:8, "Thou shalt be like a watered garden." (3.) Others say that it is stated not in one place, but in many, for the prophets everywhere foretell that the abundance of spiritual gifts which Christ would give, would be like showers of water. See Joel 2:28; Isaiah 41:18, Isaiah 44:3. See also Ezekiel 36:25, and Sirach 24:40, Vulg., "I wisdom poured forth rivers," &c. (In Angl. verses30, 31), and Son4:15, "A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon."
Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Rivers (say S. Ambrose and Theophylact), not a river, to denote the greatest abundance, force and efficacy of spiritual graces, as e.g., rivers of charity, of virginity, of martyrdoms and martyrs, of wisdom and of Christian eloquence. So S, Chrysostom, Rupertus, and others. S. Gregory (Hom. x. on Ezek.) saith: "Because holy teachings flow from the minds of the faithful, as streams of living waters from the belly of believers. For what is the belly, but the inner feelings of the mind, that is, right intention, holy desire, and a will which is humble towards God, and loving to its neighbour?"
"Consider," says S. Chrysostom, "the eloquence of Peter, the vehemence of Paul, and the wisdom of Stephen, for nothing escapes them as they speak, but they all go on as hurried forward by impetuously rushing streams." As was the case at Pentecost, when .Peter poured forth the streams of his spirit, and by one discourse converted three, and by another five, thousand Jews to Christ. And hence S. Jerome (Ep. lxi. to Pammacheus) saith, "Paul was a chosen vessel, a trumpet of the Gospel, a roaring of a lion, a torrent of Christian eloquence: for as oft as I read him methinks I hear not words but thunders." And S. Chrysostom saith, "Paul is the heaven which hath the sun of righteousness, being himself a most pure and most profound sea of wisdom" (Hom. vi. de laudibus S. Pauli). But observe that Christ is the fount of living water, that is of living and quickening grace, "For with Thee is the fountain of life" ( Psalm 36:9), and if we drink of this fountain (i.e., if we believe in Christ and obey Him), He will be in us a fountain of water springing up into eternal life (see John 4:14). This fountain is the Holy Spirit, or His abundant and plenteous grace. And from this fountain dwelling in the soul, the countless and most perfect spiritual gifts and virtues flow, like rivers and streams, into the soul and body, into all their powers and acts, and reach even to those about them. For "the grace of the Spirit," saith Chrysostom, "when it enters and waters the mind, fertilises it more than any stream; it never fails, never falls short, never stops." He therefore speaks of its indefectible abundance, and its wondrous operation, as a fountain and stream.
"Faith, hope, and charity are streams of the Holy Spirit," says S Gregory, as S. John explains it below.
Out of his belly. That is, the heart and mind. "The belly" (says S. Augustine) "is the conscience of the heart, for purified by this water, it will be itself a fountain. But the fountain is benevolence, which seeks the good of its neighbour, and therefore is not dried up, but ever flows.
Shall flow. Abundantly, in virtuous acts, by the operations and impulses of the Holy Spirit, to lead not only themselves but others also to heaven. For the spring of this spiritual stream is in heaven, and it flows back to its original source, and carries back thither spiritual men with it (see chap. iv14).
Living waters. Not stagnant waters, but flowing and springing up. Abundance of living waters. (1.) Charity (S. Augustine). (2.) Spiritual joy (see Psalm 46) (S. Basil). (3.) Evangelical doctrine (S. Ambrose). (4.) Heavenly happiness and glory, which S. John compares to the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb ( Revelation 22:1). (5.) A fount of all grace and glory, all gifts of the Holy Spirit (so S. Chrysostom, Cyril, Origen, &c.)
Ver39.—But this spake He of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive. After His death, and by His merits at Pentecost, for before that the Apostles had not received it so copiously and abundantly as at that time; and they at once watered the parched earth by the streams of their preaching and virtue, fertilised it by their good works, inebriated it by the love of God, and inundated it with all virtues, by means of the living water of Christian grace, life, and doctrine.
For the Spirit was not yet given, i.e., the Holy Spirit was not yet given so copiously, because Jesus was not yet glorified. But why was not the Holy Spirit given visibly and abundantly before His Ascension? (1.) S. Leo says, "In order that this gift and pouring forth of the Holy Spirit might be acknowledged as the fruit of His Passion, Ascension and Triumph. Just as kings give largesses to their people on occasions of great joy, as triumphs and so forth. (See Acts ii33.) "His Ascension" (says S. Leo) "was the cause of His giving His Holy Spirit." (2.) The sending of the Spirit was the glorification of Christ. For the Spirit by the greatness of His gifts wondrously set forth the glory of Christ. For He wrought so many miracles by the Apostles, as to convert the whole world to Christ. (3.) Because the disciples before the Ascension were not able to receive so great a gift, having such carnal notions of Christ. (4.) S. Augustine (in1oc), "He willed not to give the Spirit till after His Resurrection, in order that our charity might glow for the Resurrection, and being separated from the world may run wholly towards Him." And S. Cyril, "Christ then became the Principle of our renewed nature, when, counting as nothing the bands of death, He rose again." And again, "There was in the Prophets a certain rich brightness of the Holy Spirit, and a light shining before them, to guide them to the knowledge of things to come. But to those who believed in Christ, there was not only the Holy Spirit, as a light to lead them on the way, but He dwelt within them, as if in His temple."
For then streams of grace not only flowed, but poured down from heaven, not merely on a few, but on very many of the faithful. From thence there flowed forth such thousands of martyrs, who nobly endured the rack, the flames and the lions; so many bands of virgins victoriously contending even to death for their Christian virginity; so many swarms of monks and anchorets who in monasteries and deserts lived separate from the world and for God, as men of heaven, and angels upon earth; so many orders of Pontiffs and Prelates, who governed most holily the churches committed to them, and moulded them to perfect sanctity; such bands of Doctors, Preachers and Confessors, who scattered on every side their streams of doctrine and holy living, by their teaching, preaching and writings, enlightening the whole world with the knowledge of God, and enkindling it by His love; of whom it is said, "He shall pour forth as showers his wise sentences" ( Sirach 39: 6). And lastly, so many myriads of the faithful, both men and women, who living soberly, justly and godly in this world, eagerly looked, and still look for the glorious coming of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Is not this great and unending glory to Jesus Christ?
Ver42.—Doth not the Scripture say, &c. As Micah foretold. But Jesus is not the Christ as having been conceived and brought up at Nazareth. But He was born at Bethlehem, and since they had seen so many evident signs of His Messiahship, they were bound to inquire more carefully into this point which seemed to be wanting. And had they done so, they would have understood the truth, and would have known that His being a Galilean was no objection to His being the Christ; but the people from indolence, and the Scribes from envy of Him, would not investigate the matter, and were both accordingly inexcusable.
Ver43.—So there was a division among the people because of Him. Some accusing Him of being an innovator, others excusing Him, and lauding Him as a Prophet.
Ver44.—And some of them would have taken Him, i.e., some of the multitude, not of the rulers, who were all of one mind not to acknowledge Him. But the officers who were sent for the purpose wished to apprehend Him.
But no man laid hands on Him. For Christ withheld them by His power of spirit, and the majesty of His countenance, much more by His Divine Power. And, moreover, the hour for His suffering had not yet come. So Cyril.
Ver45.—The officers therefore came, &c. As to the masters who had sent them.
And they said unto them, Why have ye not brought Him? Their coming was a greater thing than to have remained with Christ, for they would thus have been spared annoyance from them, but now they became heralds of Christ, and became more bold in their bearing, says S. Chrysostom.
Him, that innovator, deceiver, and false prophet. They deigned not to call Jesus by His own name.
Ver46.—The officers answered, &c. Because He was God-man, and therefore He teaches not with human but Divine grace, power efficacy and majesty. Notice here the force of Christ"s words, His authority and dignity, which astounded these officers, who, though willing, were not able to take Him, nay were obliged to love, reverence and honour Him; and to profess as much to their masters though most hostile to Christ. "Proving," says Cyril, "how rash and weak it is to fight against Christ." "They might certainly have excused themselves (says S. Chrysostom) "by saying we dared not take Him, lest we should rouse to sedition against ourselves the multitude who favoured Him." For they seemed not so much to admire Him, as to blame those who had sent them to seize Him, whom they ought rather to have listened to. Why sent ye us to seize so great a teacher? We have been captivated by the power of His words, and ye, if ye had heard Him yourselves, would have been captivated also. They spake not to please their masters, but to witness to the truth. Such is the power of truth. It is therefore probable that many of them were afterwards fully converted to Christ at Pentecost. For God seems to have rewarded in this way their sincere and noble testimony to Christ. "They were laudably led astray," says the Gloss, "in passing over to the faith from the evil of unbelief." S. Cyril supposes that they suspected Him to be God. "How then could we take Him, who is as far above us as God is above man?"
Ver47.—The Pharisees therefore answered, Are ye also deceived? "They were Christ"s implacable enemies," says Nonnus. "When they ought to have felt compunction, and to change their opinion," says Chrysostom, "they accuse the officers. But in mild terms, for fear they also should at the last fail them." But they ought to have asked what there was so wonderful in Jesus" words. But they took care not to do that, by their blind and obstinate hatred against Him. S. Cyril enforces it thus, "We may pardon the multitude for being deceived, but how could ye, who are our officers, and infected with the same incredulity with ourselves, how could you be so quickly led astray as to believe in Him?"
Ver48.—Have any of the rulers or Pharisees believed in Him? And consequently He is not the Christ. An argument from authority, but yet a fallacy. For these rulers and Pharisees were the sworn enemies of Christ, because He reproved their sins. But yet some of the rulers secretly believed in Him, as Nicodemus. As S. Augustine wisely says, "They who knew not the law, believed on Him who had sent the law, and they who taught the law despised Him who had sent it, that the saying might be fulfilled, "I am come that they which see not may see, and that they which see might be made blind.""
Ver49.—But this people who knoweth not the Law are cursed. In passing, i.e., from Moses and the law to Jesus and the gospel. By this term the Pharisees endeavour to terrify the officers and others, and to turn them away from the faith and love of Jesus. "They are deserving" (says Theophylact) "of many curses for being unbelieving themselves, and the authors of unbelief in others." As says S. Cyril, "Wise men by boasting become fools. For while they profess that they know the law, they accuse themselves of unbelief," and of ignorance also, in not acknowledging Christ, who was promised by the law, and who then stood before them. (See Deuteronomy 18:19.)
Vers50, 51.—Nicodemus saith unto them, &c. The law of Moses, ( Deuteronomy 14:14) and the law of nature,—Nicodemus accuses his colleagues of being the violators of both laws. But he does so in a quiet way, for fear of their anger. For, as S. Augustine saith, "For he hoped if they would only hear Him patiently, they would become like those officers who were sent to take Christ, but preferred to believe on Him." And further Cyril asserts that Nicodemus said this as pricked by his conscience. Still labouring under a fatal bashfulness, and not combining boldness of speech with his zeal, he exposes not to view the faith which was inherent in him. But vesting himself in a cloke of simulation, he was a kind of secret defender of Christ. Though it is the duty of believers without fear or shame to profess the true faith, as S. Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ," &c. ( Romans 1:16).
Ver52.—They answered, &c. And thou, as being of the same country, dost thou favour and defend Him?
Search (the Scriptures, Vulg.) and see that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. They reply insolently, as though he knew not the Scriptures. Attend to us and learn. "They insult him," says Theophylact; "go and learn, for up to this time thou hast not learned that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet." This was not true. For Deborah was of Galilee ( Judges 4:4-6), and Anna of the tribe of Aser ( Luke 2:36), and Nahum the Elkoshite from Elkosh, a city in Galilee. And in Samaria which adjoined Galilee there were many Prophets, as Elijah, Elisha, and the hundred which Obadiah hid in a cave.
2. It is rash to assert that because, up to that time, no Prophet had arisen from Galilee, none would afterwards arise.
3. It was foolish, because Nicodemus had never said that Jesus was a Prophet, but merely that He should not be condemned without being heard; but they were so blinded by hatred, as to do many rash and foolish things contrary to reasonable judgment.
Ver53.—And every one went to his own house. "Fearing lest any one else should support Nicodemus," says Euthymius. They therefore deferred their intention of killing Jesus, but did not revoke it. God brought about this delay, by means of Nicodemus, because the ordained hour had not come.
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Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on John 7". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter