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Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible Poole's Annotations
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 12". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ mpc/ john-12.html. 1685.
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 12". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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JOHN CHAPTER 12
John 12:1-8 Mary anoints the feet of Jesus: Judas murmurs at the cost.
John 12:9-11 The people flock to see Lazarus: the chief priests consult to kill him.
John 12:12-19 Jesus rideth into Jerusalem in triumph.
John 12:20-22 Certain Greeks desired to see him.
John 12:23-36 He showeth the benefit of his death to believers; prayeth to his Father; is answered by a voice from heaven; signifies the manner of his death; and exhorteth to make good use of the present light.
John 12:37-41 The generality of the Jews believe not,
John 12:42,John 12:43 yet many chief rulers believe, but dare not confess him.
John 12:44-50 He urges faith in his Divine mission.
From the country near to the wilderness, where Jesus continued with his disciples, John 11:54, he
came to Bethany, within less than two miles of Jerusalem, upon the sabbath day, or possibly the night before, six days before the passover: it was the place where (as we read in the former chapter) Lazarus died, and was by Christ
raised from the dead.
That this supper was made in Bethany is no question; but at whose house there it is questioned. Some think that it was at the house of Simon the leper. We read indeed of a supper made for our Saviour at his house, both Matthew 26:6,Matthew 26:7, and Mark 14:3, and that Simon is said to have been of Bethany: only the supper here mentioned is said to have been six days before the passover, and that mentioned by Matthew and Mark seems to have been but two days before, Matthew 26:2; Mark 14:1. That which is probably said to solve that difficulty is, the circumstances of the supper, and history about it, seem the very same, both in Matthew, Mark, and John; but it seems in Matthew and Mark to be a little put out of order; they do not say that this supper was two days before the passover, (that indeed had been a contradiction to what John doth here relate), but both Matthew and Mark first tell us, that Christ told his disciples that the passover was to be within two days, and of the counsel taken by the chief priests and elders against Christ, and then relates the story of this supper: John first gives us an account of this supper, which was six days before the passover; so John seems to have related it in its proper time and order.
Both Matthew and Mark relate this story with some different circumstances: see the notes upon those two places, where all the differing circumstances are considered and explained, and the parts of this history are more largely explained.
Bethany was so near to Jerusalem, that many of the Jews came thither, as well to see Lazarus, raised from the dead, as to see Christ: nor was this without the special providence of God, that the name of Christ might be made more famous just before his suffering.
Never was there a more unreasonable madness and rage, to justify the apostle’s calling of the enemies of the gospel unreasonable men, 2 Thessalonians 3:2. Suppose that Christ had broken the sabbath, or had spoken blasphemy, yet what had Lazarus done?
Being raised from death to life, he possibly spake of it to the honour and glory of God; for this they consult to put him to death also; and their only reason was, because that many of the Jews believed on Jesus for his sake.
This whole history is much more largely reported by the other evangelists; See Poole on "Matthew 21:1", and following verses to Matthew 21:16. See Poole on "Mark 11:1", and following verses to Mark 11:10. See Poole on "Luke 19:29", and following verses to Luke 19:40.
The evangelist, amongst others, confesseth his own ignorance also. The disciples saw the thing done, Christ riding into the city upon the foal of an ass, the people strewing of boughs, and throwing their clothes in the way; but to what purpose these things were done, or what fulfilling of prophecies was in this thing, that they understood not, so long as Christ was alive: their eyes were upon the Messiah a temporal prince, that should come in great state and majesty, so as they were wholly blinded from seeing any thing of the truth and faithfulness of God fulfilled in this little triumph of their Lord’s. But after that Christ had died, and was risen again from the dead, and ascended up to heaven, so declaring himself with power to be the Son of God; then they began to remember these things, so as to confirm their faith in him as the true Messiah, whom God had sent into the world. The word of the Lord which we hear, and the works of God which we see, though oft times they do not profit us, nor are improved by us at the present, yet afterward become of use and profit to us: it is therefore good to hear, and see, and observe God’s words and works, and to lay them up in our hearts, as it is said Mary pondered the sayings of the angel; expecting fruit afterwards of what at present we see no fruit and effect.
These three verses let us know the external cause of the people’s coming to see Christ, which was the fame of the miracle wrought by our Saviour on Lazarus; this increased the number of those who came to see his entrance into Jerusalem; but the unseen cause was, doubtless, the influence of God upon their hearts, directing them to it, for the further glorifying of his Son before his passion. But this enraged the Pharisees, to see that their decree that those who owned Christ should be turned out of the synagogue should have no better effect: but the multitude rather more owned him, and ran after him. Here again we find the term world signifying many, though those many made up but a very small part of the world.
It is not easy to be determined what these Greeks were; whether Jews, who, being scattered in the Grecian country upon the conquests which the Grecians had made upon the Jews under Alexander the Great, and those who succeeded him, still remained in those countries, but kept so much of the religion of their country, as to come up to the passover; or Gentiles, which are ordinarily called Greeks in contradistinction to the Jews, Acts 14:1; Acts 16:1; Acts 18:17; Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:23,1 Corinthians 1:24; Galatians 3:28. But it is most probable that they were Gentiles; for though some say that the Jews would never have suffered the Gentiles to have come into the temple to worship, yet the contrary is plain from the instance of the eunuch, Acts 8:27; who was a heathen, and came to Jerusalem to worship. And, Acts 17:4, we read of a great multitude of devout Greeks; in the Greek the word is σεβομενων, worshipping Greeks. And it is plain that from the beginning there was a liberty for strangers, not of Israel, but such as came out of a far country, for the Lord’s name’s sake; and Solomon prayeth at the dedication of the temple, that the Lord would hear them, 1 Kings 8:41-43; and there was belonging to the temple a court of the Gentiles for that purpose; it is called the court without the temple, Revelation 11:2. What worship they there performed is a greater question: some think they only prayed; others think they offered sacrifices in that court, from 2Ma 3:35; but certain it is, that there were divers of the Gentiles devoutly disposed, that, hearing of the Jewish temple, and the solemn worship performed there at their solemn feasts, came, some as spectators at those great conventions, others with a true design to worship the God of the Jews.
If these Grecians (as is probable) were Syrophenicians, their country was so near to Bethsaida of Galilee, which was Philip’s town, that it is probable they might have some knowledge of him, and that might bring them to him to be spokesman; but it should seem they came only to satisfy their curiosity, for they ask for no more than that they might
The news of their coming, and their errand, is brought to Christ by Philip and Andrew, who possibly might stumble at it, because they were Gentiles, and Christ had forbidden them to go into the way of the Gentiles; they therefore first acquaint him with the desire of those Greeks, before they bring them to Christ.
Christ replies, that the time was now come when he (who was the Son of God)
should be glorified; that is, by the Gentiles receiving of the gospel, according to the many prophecies of it in the Old Testament; but he goeth on telling them that he must first die.
Look as you see in your ordinary husbandry, the grains of wheat are first buried in the earth, and lose their form, before they spring and shoot up again, and bring forth fruit; so it must be with me; I must be first lifted up, before I shall draw men after me; I must first be crucified, before my gospel shall be preached to all nations, and the fulness of the Gentiles shall come: but if I have once died, and risen again from the dead, then you shall see this abundant fruit.
We had much the same in the other evangelists, Matthew 10:39; Luke 14:26. Some think that our Saviour repeateth it here, to show, that as Christ first suffered, and then entered into his glory; so his disciples must also lay the foundation of their glory in their sufferings and through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God, Acts 14:22. Or what if we should say, that our blessed Lord doth here prophesy what sufferings would attend the first preaching of the gospel, and encourage his disciples to what he knew they must meet with and undergo, by letting them know that the ready way to lose their share in life eternal, was to be so fond of this life, and the comforts of it, as not to be ready to lay them down for him; but if any person hated, that is, less loved his life, and all that in this world is dear to him, than Christ and his service, he should, if not be preserved from enemies’ rage, yet most certainly be recompensed with eternal life?
If any man serve me, let him follow me: this is much the same with that, Matthew 16:24, unless following here be more restrained to suffering, let him follow me to my cross; for otherwise it seemeth the same with serving; we must be ready not only to do, but also to die for Christ, to follow him to the cross, if he calleth us to it. And if any man so serveth me, he shall be in heaven where I am; If we suffer with him, we shall also be glorified together, Romans 8:17. For my Father, with whom I am one in nature and essence, will honour those that are my servants; so great a thing it is to be a servant to the Son of God. The Father will honour those that are so, and especially those who are so in suffering, with eternal life and felicity.
Now is my soul troubled; by soul is not here to be understood only the sensitive part of the soul, but his whole human soul. So John 13:21, He was troubled in spirit. Our inward troubles arise from our passions; and there are passions of grief and fear, which give us most of our inward trouble; fear respecteth some evil at a distance from us; grief is caused by evil fallen upon us, or so near that we seem to be already in the power of it. The word here used is τεταρακται, which signifieth no mean, but a great and more than ordinary, degree of trouble. Christ was greatly troubled, though not so as we sometimes are, when our trouble leadeth us to despair: Christ was capable of no sinful trouble. Hence two questions arise:
1. For what the soul of Christ was troubled?
2. How such a degree of trouble could agree to the Lord Jesus Christ?
He tells us, Matthew 26:38, that he was exceedingly sorrowful, so as sorrow was one part of his trouble; and we may learn from what he afterward saith in this verse, Father, save me from this hour, that fear made up the other part of it. He was grieved, and he was afraid; some say it was at the apprehension of that miserable death he was to die; others say, at the sense of the Divine wrath which he was to undergo, death being not yet overcome, and his conflict with his Father’s wrath for the sins of men being yet to be endured. Though Christ at this time was in the most perfect obedience to his Father’s will, offering up a most acceptable and well pleasing sacrifice unto God; yet he, sustaining our persons, had a conflict to endure even with his Father’s wrath upon that account, though not upon his own personal account; for so he was at this time doing that which was most acceptable and well pleasing in his sight. As to the second question, nothing could more agree to Christ than this, both with respect to his human nature, which had the same natural (though not sinful) infirmities which other men have; and with respect to his design and end, to help and relieve his people under their troubles of spirit; and, as the apostle saith, Hebrews 2:15, to deliver them who through fear of death are all their lifetime subject to bondage. So as this trouble of spirit agreed to him both as man and as Mediator. But there must be a vast difference observed between this trouble of spirit in Christ, and that which is in us. Our troubles are upon reflections for our own sin, and the wrath of God due to us therefore; his trouble was for the wrath of God due to us for our sins. Our troubles are because we have personally grieved God; his was because those given to him (not he himself) had offended God. We are afraid of our eternal condemnation; he was only afraid by a natural fear of death, which naturally riseth higher according to the kind of death we die. Our troubles have mixtures of despair, distrust, sinful horrors; there was no such thing in his trouble. Our troubles in their natural tendencies are killing and destroying; only by accident, and the wise ordering of Divine providence, prove advantageous, by leading us to him, as the only remedy for troubled souls: his trouble was, in the very nature of it, not only pure and clean, but also sanative and healing. But that he was truly troubled, and that in his whole soul, and that such a trouble did very well agree, as to the human nature he had assumed, so to his office as our Mediator and Saviour, and the foundation of a great deal of peace, quiet, and satisfaction to us, is out of question. The chastisement of our peace in this particular lay upon him; and they were some of those stripes of his, by which we are healed.
And (saith he) what shall I say? It is the natural language of a spirit troubled.
Father, save me from this hour; this hour of my passion; it is the same with that in our Saviour’s last prayer, Let this cup pass from me; and must be understood with the same qualifications there expressed, if it be thy will, if it be possible, &c. By his blessed example he hath taught us, under the distresses of our spirits, whither to flee, what to do.
For my love (saith David to his enemies, Psalms 109:4) they are mine adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer; I give up myself to prayer. God hath bidden us, Psalms 50:15, call upon him in the day of trouble; and St. James saith, James 5:3, Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Herein Christ hath himself set us an example, that we should follow his steps. But how doth our Saviour pray to be saved from that hour, when for this cause he came into the world? Here was in Christ a conflict between the flesh and the Spirit; not like ours, which is between corrupt flesh and the Spirit, but between his natural flesh, and the natural affections of it, and his spirit; that was fully conformed to the will of God, and gets a present conquest.
But for this cause (saith he) came I to this hour: he checks himself, correcteth the language of his natural flesh, acquiesceth, rejoiceth in the will of God. I was not (saith he) forced, I came of my own good will to this hour; and I came on purpose to die for my people.
Father, glorify thy name; that is, make thy name glorious, make it to be known and famous over all the earth. A general petition, but such a one as all our particular requests must be reduced to, if they be according to the will of God. It is as much as, Father, do thine own will: for God is then glorified when his will is done. But it here signifies more: Not my will, but thy will be done. My flesh indeed saith save me from this hour; but, Father, do thy own will, let that be done concerning me which will most tend to make thy name renowned. Such a prayer never goes without an answer.
Then came there a voice from heaven, &c.; the Lord caused a voice as from heaven to be heard. I have glorified it; I have by thee caused my glory to be published and proclaimed in the world, by thy preaching, by thy miracles; and I will perfect that which I have begun, I will glorify it again; thou shalt further glorify me by thy death, by thy resurrection from the dead, by the preaching of the gospel, and carrying it to the ends of the earth.
The people said that it thundered; nor, it may be, were they mistaken, saving only in this, that they thought it was nothing else but thunder (being possibly at such a distance, as they could not distinctly hear the voice); for it was God’s way, when he spake unto his people by a voice, to have that voice, for the greater declaration of the Divine majesty, attended with thunderings and lightnings: thus it was at the giving of the law upon Mount Sinai; thus we read in John’s visions, Revelation 4:5; Revelation 8:5, of lightnings, and thunderings, and voices, which proceeded from God’s throne.
Others said, An angel spake to him: it was the general opinion of the Jews, that God always, when by voice he revealed his mind to his people, made use of an angel to do it by; hence, probably, as those who were at such a distance that they heard no voice, thought it was nothing but thunder; so those who are so nigh as, besides the thunder, to hear a voice, said, It was an angel that spake with him.
This voice came not to instruct me, I very well knew, before it came, that my Father had glorified his own name, and would do it again; it came not principally nor solely for me, but chiefly to confirm you in this great truth, that I am the Son of God, and he whom he hath sent into the world, by and in whom he designs to glorify his own great name.
The terms judgment and world are taken so variously in the New Testament, and particularly in this very Gospel, that they have given interpreters a great liberty to vary in their senses of this passage. It seemeth reasonable to agree that our Saviour doth expound in this verse what the voice from heaven uttered; that the Father had already glorified his name, and would yet further glorify it. How?
Now (saith he) is the judgment of this world; that is, (say some), the condemnation of the wicked men in it: and certain it is, that the term world doth sometimes so signify, John 15:19; John 17:6,John 17:9; 1 Corinthians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 11:32. But this sense seemeth not to agree with John 3:17, where Christ tells us, that this his first coming was not to condemn the world. Others do therefore here by judgment better understand, the dispensation of Divine providence, by which a great change or catastrophe was to be made in the world by the reformation of it; the beginning of the time of the restitution of all things, Acts 3:21. But it seems best to be understood of the deliverance and vindication of mankind from the power of the devil, who had a long time held mankind in an unjust possession. The devil had got a dominion over mankind by the fall of Adam, and had exceedingly tyrannized over them, keeping the far greatest part of the world in slavery by idolatry, and keeping many others, who were no open idolaters, yet captives to his will. Now, saith our Saviour, the time is come when this shall be altered; Satan shall be bound up; I will deliver a great part of the world from the yoke of idolatry; another part of them from the power and dominion of sin. The devil, who is not by any right the prince of this world, but boasteth himself to be so, Matthew 4:9, and acts in it like a prince, powerfully working in the children of disobedience, Ephesians 2:2, and as the god of this world blinding men’s eyes, 2 Corinthians 4:4, taking the world as his house, and keeping it as a strong man, Matthew 12:29, shall be cast out of my redeemed ones; so as though he will still be going about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, and molesting the best of men by his temptations, yet he shall not prevail over them, God will bruise him under their feet; he that had the power of death shall (as to his dominion) be destroyed, and those who are in bondage through the fear of it, shall be delivered, Hebrews 2:14,Hebrews 2:15; the tempted shall be succoured, Hebrews 2:18, and God with the temptation shall give a blessed issue. And the devil’s kingdom kept up by idolatry, shall also in a great measure be destroyed in the world; many nations now under that slavery shall embrace the gospel, and throw away their idols.
However this term of lifting up Christ is taken in some other scriptures, it is by the evangelist himself in this text expounded concerning his death, so as there is no room for any other interpretation of it in this text. The word that is used, is hardly to be found in any place (except where in Scripture it relates to Christ) signifying to die, or put to death; but is very proper, both to express the kind of his death, which was a lifting up upon the cross, from the earth into the air; and to let us know that his death was a lifting up of his name: as it was the lowest degree of his humiliation, so it was nearest to his exaltation. It was his highest act of obedience to the will of his Father, that for which his Father highly exalted him, giving him a name which is above every name, Philippians 2:9; and also that which made his name famous over all the world, by the preaching of the gospel; for as the apostles, so all the ministers of the gospel since their times, preach a Christ crucified. Saith our Saviour, If, or although, I be put to death by the hands of the Jews, lifted up upon the cross between heaven and earth, yet this shall not hinder my Father’s glorifying of himself in and by me; for instead of obscuring or hindering my Father’s glory, by this I shall further promote it. For by the preaching of my cross, and publication of my gospel to all nations, and by the efficacious concurrence of my Holy Spirit, together with the preaching of the gospel, I shall draw (though not all, and every man, yet) multitudes of men and women after me, so as they shall embrace and believe in me, having died and risen up again from the dead, and being by my apostles, and other ministers of the gospel, held forth as the object of people’s faith, to be by them laid hold upon in order to their eternal life and salvation. He used the term of lifting up, (saith the evangelist), to signify the particular death he should die, by being crucified; in which death the bodies of the crucified abode not upon the earth, as when they were at any time stoned, or strangled, or beheaded, &c., but were lifted up from the earth to be nailed to the cross, and hung in the air until they died.
Here again the law is taken in a larger sense than in some places, where it is only significant of the books of Moses, in opposition to the prophets and other holy writings, as we had it before, John 10:34; for the places of Scripture which the people seem to refer to, seem to be Psalms 110:4, where Christ is called a priest for ever; or else Daniel 7:14, where the kingdom of the Messiah is said to be an everlasting dominion, which should not pass away, a kingdom that should not be destroyed: so also, Daniel 2:44; Micah 4:7. These old prophecies of the Messiah the people could not reconcile to what our Saviour here told them of his death; the reason was, their not understanding the true notion of the Messiah, and of his kingdom, which they fancied not to be a spiritual and eternal kingdom, but a temporal kingdom here on earth. This made them ask, how, (that is, with what consistency to those prophecies), if he indeed were the Messias, he said, The Son of man should die; for that they understood by the term
lifted up, which maketh it very plain, that it was a phrase they used to express that kind of death by. They ask who he meant by the Son of man.
Our Saviour thinketh not fit further to open himself as to that point concerning the Messiah, and his Divine nature; into a direct assertion of which he must have entered, had he given a direct answer to their questions; otherwise what they had objected might easily have been answered by our Saviour, by distinguishing between the two natures in his own person: according to his Divine nature he was not to die, though he died according to his human nature; and after his suffering and resurrection, his whole person, in which both the Divine and human nature were united, were to endure for ever: but he thinks not fit to discourse this point, but returns to what John had told them, John 1:9, and what he himself had said, John 9:5, that he was the light of the world, though possibly by light he here understandeth those beams of gospel doctrine which issued out from him as the fountain of light. Yet a little while, I, who am the great Light, and the true Light of the world, am with you: or, Yet a little while, the gospel, which is light, and directs you in the way to heaven, is with you, for within a few years (under forty) after this, their city was destroyed, and their nation ruined; and before that time the apostles were turned away from the generality of that nation to the Gentiles, Acts 13:46; Acts 19:9. He in the next verse expounds himself as to what he meant by walking, viz. believing: Make use of the light, both to guide your understandings and judgments, and also to direct your feet: for look on men in the world, while they have the guidance of the light of the sun, they know how to order their steps, and to direct their feet; but if once it be dark, they know not how to direct their feet in their way, but err, and stumble, and fall. So it will be with you, when I shall be gone, who am the great Light of the world while I am in the world (as he spake John 9:5); and not only I gone, but the gospel, which is that light which I shall leave behind me, be gone, by my apostles turning to the Gentiles, through your perverse refusal of the salvation of it, as Acts 13:46; Acts 19:9; when you shall be utterly ruined, (as it will be at the destruction of your city), then you will walk in darkness, having no means of salvation left you.
He either expounds what he meant before, by his calling to them to walk in the light, viz. believing in him who is the true and great Light of the world; or else he declares faith in him to be their duty, as well as obedience to him, which is a point our Saviour had often before pressed. While I am amongst you, and when I shall be gone from you and the light of the gospel yet stayeth behind amongst you, embrace me, and receive me as your Saviour, and yield all obedience to the prescriptions of my gospel, that ye may be the children of light: this the apostle expounds and enlargeth upon, Ephesians 5:8-11. After Christ had spoken these things in Jerusalem, he departed to Bethany, where he obscured himself from his enemies.
The miracles of Christ did not work faith in any, yet they had a tendency both to prepare souls for an assent to the proposition of the gospel, and also for receiving Christ as the true Messiah and Saviour of the world, as they evidenced a Divine power in him by which he wrought those mighty works; but yet they had not this effect upon the generality of the Jews.
So as that which Isaiah prophesied, Isaiah 53:1, appeared to be fulfilled in them; for the term ινα, which we translate that, doth not in Scripture always denote the final cause, with respect to the counsel and intention of God, but oft times the event. So John 5:20; Romans 5:20; 2 Corinthians 1:17.
The arm of the Lord may either signify the gospel, which is called the power of God to salvation. Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18; or else the Messiah, who is thought to be mentioned under this notion by Isaiah, Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 59:16; Isaiah 63:12, because the Father worketh by him, as a man worketh by his arm, Isaiah 1:3,Isaiah 1:14.
Some will have, they could not believe, to be the same with, they did not; as, Mark 6:5, it is said Christ could not do mighty works at Nazareth; or the same with, they would not, as Genesis 19:22; but this seemeth a hard interpretation of ουκ ηδυναντο. It is most certain, that in all there is a natural impotency and disability to believe; but this text seemeth to speak of a further degree of impossibility than that, occasioned through their wilful obstinacy, and God’s judicial hardening of them.
Because Esaias said, is no more than, for Esaias said; the particle doth not denote the cause influencing them, but the effect of the prophecy: God’s word (saith the evangelist) must be made good, and Isaiah had prophesied of what now came to pass.
We have this text (than which there is not one more terrible in the whole book of God) no less than six times quoted in the New Testament, and in all places quoted and given as a reason for the Jews unbelief in the Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 13:14,Matthew 13:15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; Acts 28:26,Acts 28:27; Romans 11:8. It is not quoted alike in all places, but for substance the same. The original from whence these quotations are, is Isaiah 6:9,Isaiah 6:10. By comparing the texts we shall find several authors, instruments, or causes of these dreadful effects. In the original, the prophet Isaiah is made the instrumental cause: Go, (saith God), and make the heart of this people fat, & c. Matthew, and Luke in Acts 28:27, mention themselves as the cause. Matthew saith, For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed. And the Acts it is, For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed. All the other texts speak of it as God’s act. The thing is easily thus reconciled: God sent to the Jews his prophets, and gave them the means of salvation; it is true, without the inward efficacy of his Spirit they could not savingly believe, but they did not do what was in their power to have done, nay, they did do what was in their power to have avoided, they slighted and contemned the Lord’s prophets, and killed them, and stoned such as were sent unto them. Thus they first shut their own eyes, and hardened their own hearts; and as their forefathers had done in their generation, so the Jews in our Saviour Christ’s time did also in their generation, shutting their eyes against the revelation of the gospel by Christ himself. They thus behaving themselves, God judicially gave them up to their own lusts, permitting their hearts to harden, and suffering them to close their own eyes, so as they could not repent, believe, or return, and be saved; not that God infused any malice into their hearts, but withdrew his grace from them after such provocations on their parts: so that as the prophets in their age laboured with them in vain, and all the event of their ministry was but the generality of that people’s growing worse and more obdurate; so all the event of Christ’s ministry and miracles, which he personally wrought amongst them in his age, did accidentally but increase their sin and their judgment, and ripen them for their ruin, through their wilful abuse of those sacred means of life and salvation. The judgment itself was but one, viz. a judicial hardening of them; but it is set out by a great variety of expressions, both by the prophets, and the writers of the New Testament: in Isaiah, by making their hearts fat, their ears heavy, shutting their eyes: in Matthew, making their hearts gross, their ears dull of hearing, shutting their eyes: in this text, by blinding their eyes, and hardening their hearts: in the Acts, by the same phrases as in Matthew: in Romans 11:8 is added, God hath given them the spirit of slumber. All the phrases are expressive of the same dreadful judgment of God; yet it may be expressed in this variety of phrase, to signify the distinct, particular plagues (comprehended in this one plague) which fall upon the several powers and faculties of those souls upon whom this dreadful judgment falls; blindness in the mind, stubbornness in the will, &c., vileness in the affections, reprobacy in the mind, &c.
The evangelist saith, that these things Esaias said, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. Isaiah’s sight of God’s glory is described, Isaiah 6:1, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, &c. The evangelist expounds this of Christ, which is an evident proof of the Deity of Christ, that he is Jehovah; for it was Jehovah whom the prophet there saw: and that the revelation of that dreadful wrath of God, did not only concern that particular age in which Isaiah lived, but the successive generation of the Jews, whom the prophet saw by the eye of prophecy would tread in the same steps, and use Christ (the Heir) as their forefathers had used him, and the prophets of that age.
Though the Pharisees made up a great part of the sanhedrim, yet there were divers others also mixed with them, amongst which there were many of a better temper; and it may be αρχοντων here may not signify members of that court, but principal men in the magistracy. We must not understand by
believed, that they believed with a saving faith; what follows will evidence the contrary; but they had some convictions upon them as to the truth of what he said, and his being the true Messias; but they durst not openly declare what themselves thought, nor publicly own and aver Christ to be what he indeed was, and they were inclinable to think he was, lest the Pharisees, who were Christ’s most implacable enemies, should have put the decree they had made (of which we read, John 9:22) in execution upon them.
For they were not willing to part with their great places in the magistracy, which brought them respect, honour, and applause from men; they valued this more than God’s honouring and praising them. How hard it is for great men to enter into the kingdom of God!
The words, at first view, seem to contain a contradiction, and denying the same act as to the same person; as if any man could believe, and yet not believe on Christ; but there is nothing less in them. By the same figurative way of speaking God tells the prophet Samuel, 1 Samuel 8:7, the people had not rejected Samuel, (that is, not Samuel alone), but they had rejected him. So Mark 9:37, Whosoever receiveth me, receiveth not me, ( that is, not me alone), but him that sent me. So 1 Thessalonians 4:8. Or else thus, He that believeth on me, doth not believe on a mere man, as I appear at present to the world, but he also believeth on God that sent me. The Jews owned one God the Father, and acknowledged him the object of their faith, John 14:1, Ye believe in God; but they were blinded as to Christ, appearing only in the form of a man. So that our Saviour again by these words asserts his Divine nature, his oneness and equality with his Father; so as he was also the object of their faith, as well as his Father.
No man hath seen God at any time; but he that by the eyes of his mind knows, and understands, and believeth in me, seeth him that sent me: or, he that seeth me in my works which I do, seeth also him that sent me, by whom I do these mighty works. Thus, afterward, John 14:9, he saith to Philip, He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; he that hath seen me, hath not indeed seen the Divine nature and essence, but hath seen that Person who is one with the Father; the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, as the apostle speaks, Hebrews 1:3.
I am come a light into the world; this is no more than what our Saviour hath often said, John 3:19, and John 9:5; and it was according to the prophecy of him, Isaiah 42:6.
That whosoever believeth on me shall not abide in darkness; that he who receiveth and embraces me, as his Priest and Prophet, though he may be in darkness naturally, Ephesians 5:8, yet should not abide in a state of ignorance, and sin, and guilt, John 3:36; John 8:31. Men and women, before they believe in Christ are in darkness; but upon believing, they are translated out of their state of darkness into a state of marvellous light; they do not abide in darkness.
I judge him not; I alone judge him not, or rather, it is not my present business to pronounce sentence of condemnation against him; I am now doing the work of a Redeemer and Saviour, not of a Judge: he is condemned already, John 3:18, and he hath another that accuseth and condemneth him; as the Jews had Moses, John 5:45, so he hath my Father as his Judge, and will have my word as his accuser (as in the next verse): I shall one day condemn him; but that is not my present business, that was not my errand in coming into the world. I came to offer the world the means, and to show them the way to salvation; if they do perish, their blood will be upon their own heads: it is not my business to condemn them.
These words, and receiveth not my words, expound the former: not to receive in heart, to believe, and embrace the words of Christ in the gospel, is to reject Christ. So Luke 10:16, He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me. And he that doth so, hath one that judgeth him, that is, my Father who hath sent me, and will vindicate mine honour. Nay, the word that I have spoken shall rise up in judgment against him at the last day, and prove that he hath judged himself unworthy of everlasting life.
I do not speak what I say to you as mere man, or any thing but what is my Father’s will, and mine only as one with him, and as sent by him; I have said nothing but what my Father hath willed me to reveal to the world as his will.
I am assured that the way to life everlasting is to obey his commandments; and that makes me speak, and deliver all that, and nothing but that, which I have in charge from my Father:
as the Father said unto me, so I speak. Therefore look you to it, in rejecting me, you reject my Father, whom you own and acknowledge for your God; and in disobeying me, you disobey my Father, and him whom you own as your Father also.