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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on John 12". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ john-12.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on John 12". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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PART IV. (F.)
VI. THE PAUSE BETWEEN CHRIST’S PUBLIC MINISTRY AND HIS PASSION
The Mustering of the Opposing Forces of Light and Darkness
1. The anointing at Bethany, as an expression of love and gratitude to Christ, and as at the same time an anticipation of His death (John 12:1-8).
2. As a contrast to this the hate and fury of the Jewish rulers, extending even to the friends of Jesus, is recorded (John 12:9-11).
3. The triumphal entry into Jerusalem of Jesus, as the promised King of Israel (John 12:12-18); and the effects of this demonstration on His enemies (John 12:19).
4. Representatives of the Gentiles (Greeks) come to Jesus (John 12:20-22).
5. Our Lord’s declaration that it is through His death that the Son of man will be glorified (John 12:23-26).
6. The beginning of Christ’s final spiritual conflict, and the assurance of victory (John 12:27-36).
7. The Evangelist’s reflections on Jewish unbelief (John 12:37-41).
8. The judgment of those who reject the Light and Life of men is sure, although He came to save the world (John 12:42-50).
Third Year of our Lord’s Ministry
Probable place in Synoptic narrative: following Matthew 20:29 to Matthew 25:46; Mark 10:46 to Mark 14:2; Luke 18:35 to Luke 21:38.
Time.—Nisan (March–April), A.U.C. 783, A.D. 30.
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
John 12:1. See Homiletic Note, p. 341.
John 12:2. The Synoptists inform us that it was in the house of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3). It has been suggested that Simon was a relative of the family of Lazarus, or that Martha was the wife of Simon. There is no ground for such conjectures. It seems more in accordance with verisimilitude that Simon and Lazarus, being both subjects of Jesus’ healing power, resolved to honour their Benefactor, and that the feast was held in Simon’s house as being the most commodious. The special mention of the part taken by Martha, and the position of Lazarus at the board, favour this view.
John 12:3. A pound (λίτρα).—In Matthew and Mark “an alabaster” (cruse) is the term employed, i.e. a box or flask made of this beautiful spar, in which the ointment was hermetically sealed. Ointment of spikenard (μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς).—I.e. either genuine or pure nard; or Pistic Nard, which is perhaps, as Westcott suggests, “a local technical term.” John does not mention, with Matthew and Mark, that Mary first anointed the head of Jesus, which was an ordinary mark of honour (Psalms 23:5; Luke 7:46). It is the extraordinary feature of the occurrence that this Evangelist records—Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet and wiping them with her hair.
John 12:4. Simon’s son.—These words are omitted in all the best MSS.
John 12:5. Three hundred pence.—A little over £10 in our money.
John 12:6. Bag (γλωσσόκομον).—Chest or box. Bare (ἐβάσταζεν).—It means here, perhaps, bare or took away.
John 12:7. Let her alone, etc.—The best MSS. read “in order that she may keep this against the day,” etc.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—John 12:1-8
The anointing at Bethany.—It was eventide at the close of the Jewish Sabbath, the last Sabbath before the final passover of our Lord’s ministry, the passover at which He was to be offered up as the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The restful close of a restful day, bright with the sunshine of spring, beautiful and fragrant with the fresh greenery and the profusion of flowers of that season in Palestine, was this Sabbath evening. In the rural retreat at Bethany, hidden from the city by the brow of Olivet, Jesus and His disciples had passed the peaceful day. And now, when the rosy tints of sunset had faded from earth and sky, the little company was found under a hospitable roof for social cheer and intercourse. It was at the house of Simon the leper, probably one of those who had been healed by Jesus, that the guests had met (Matthew 26:6). Among them were the members of that family whose connection with it has made Bethany ever memorable. Martha, true to her character as depicted in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 10:40), was present, busied with needful and congenial household duties. Thus at the board were seated Jesus Himself and two of the trophies of His redeeming might: Simon, the host, who had been delivered from a double death in life; and Lazarus, “strange guest,” who but a short space before had been laid in the tomb with almost despairing sorrow, and had been summoned forth by the Life of men anew to see the light of mortal day, and to witness to the divine glory in the action of the Son of God. But this feast is memorable for the circumstance here related as having occurred at it.
I. The offering of loving devotion.—
1. After the signal miracle of the raising of Lazarus, Jesus had left the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, thus giving to His enemies a last opportunity for repentance (John 11:53-54). Since that time He had not been in Bethany, and Mary had had no opportunity of showing her affection and gratitude to Him.
2. But now, as she sees Him sitting at the table in Simon’s house, there rushes in upon her soul a sense of all the preciousness of Christ. What had He not been to her and hers during those years of intercourse! How blessed had those hours been when she had listened to His heavenly teaching, sitting like a disciple at the Master’s feet and learning of Him, drinking in His words of heavenly wisdom, with all their comfort and hope and promise!
3. Above all, there was Lazarus, her brother, seated there in health and vigour, whom Christ had snatched from the prison-house of the grave. Whichever way she turned, indeed, were evidences of the blessedness Jesus had brought to her home and to her own life. How shall she display all the gratitude and love that are welling up in her heart? Words! how poor they are to express love! Gifts! are they not even poorer?
4. There was one way in which she could in a measure express her feeling better than by costly gift, or even fervent speech. She possessed an alabaster box of an esteemed and precious unguent (Mark 14:3)—spikenard, or pistic nard; and approaching the Saviour, she broke the flask, and then poured the unguent on His head. This was in the East “an ordinary mark of honour” (Psalms 23:5). But passing beyond that, she showed a further token of her love and esteem in anointing His feet and wiping them with her hair.
5. Further than that, there may have been in Mary’s heart the idea, gathered not alone from Jesus’ own words, but from the hate and fury of His foes, that He might not be long here to receive such tokens of gratitude and affection. Mingled with this would be the feeling also that our Lord would be cheered in the midst of so much opposition by the consciousness of the deep love and devotion of those who knew Him best.
6. Thus she poured forth the precious oil, unconsciously as it were anointing the great kingly Priest after the order of Melchisedec, as He went forward on His path to conquer and redeem.
“Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
Nor other thought her mind admits
But, he was dead, and there he sits,
And He that brought him back is there.
“Then one deep love doth supersede
All other, when her ardent gaze
Roves from the living brother’s face,
And rests upon the Life indeed.
“All subtle thought, all curious fears,
Borne down by gladness so complete,
She bows, she bathes the Saviour’s feet
With costly spikenard and with tears.
“Thrice blest whose lives are faithful prayers,
Whose loves in higher love endure;
What souls possess themselves so pure,
Or is there blessedness like theirs?”
In Memoriam, xxxii.
II. The worldly judgment of this offering.—
1. Acts of spiritual devotion are not to the world’s liking. The world cannot understand them, and dubs them with the epithet “enthusiastic,” or “fanatical,” or “foolish.” And thus it was here. From the Synoptic narratives we learn that the disciples of our Lord generally murmured at what they called the waste of the ointment.
2. But we further learn from this Gospel who it was that instigated this feeling. It was the traitor—the son of perdition. The sweet and penetrating odour of the nard actually stank in his nostrils. It awoke into active and hateful activity the avarice, the meanness, the duplicity, of his poor, degraded nature. A pound of spikenard—so costly—worth at least three hundred pence (about £10), which might have done so much for the poor by going into the bag, which was lean enough! Such whispers, circulated among the disciples, made them, at first view of the matter, indignant at the apparently wasteful act. And this feeling was readily expressed by Judas Iscariot.
3. But it was an altogether false and evil judgment; and the Evangelist, looking back on the scene, discovers for us the true meaning. Even at that very moment, Judas, that man of dark soul, was meditating the betrayal of Jesus. His plausible sympathy for the poor was altogether hypocritical. Much the poor would have got from him, even had the ointment been transmuted into gold; for “he bare the bag, and was a thief.” And as the time of betrayal was near, which would leave the bag entirely in his hands, he boiled over with avaricious rage to think how much more might have been in it had he had the disposal of this ointment.
4. It is very significant to read in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 26:14-15) that immediately after this incident Judas went to the chief priests and said, “What will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.” He has lost the three hundred pence, but He will have something to swell the small sum in that common purse, which, depend upon it, he will cling to when the end comes. What a contrast! The love and devotion of Mary side by side with the avarice, hatred, and hypocrisy of Judas. Here on earth they may be seen together, and may be misjudged—the avarice counted prudence, and the free-handed devotion waste. And yet even here there is fixed between a gulf as great—nay, that same gulf—as that which separates heaven from hell.
III. Our Lord’s appreciation of Mary’s act.—
1. The sensitive nature of Mary must have been deeply wounded. She was “troubled.” Had she done wrong? Not long was she permitted to be in suspense. The Lord spoke, and He spoke not directly to Judas, but generally to all the disciples: “Let her alone, that she may keep it for the day of My burial.” The other Gospels tell what the meaning of the deed was at that time. But it was preliminary to a further anointing, for which part of the costly unguent was preserved.
2. It was the beginning of a good work done on the Saviour, and having a double significance. Not only was it the anointing of our High Priest and King, who was to be hailed with hosannas on the coming day—the High Priest was also to be the sacrifice; and thus it was a beginning of His embalming, a preparation for the supreme act of His self-sacrificing and redeeming love.
3. The house was filled with the odour of the ointment; but it has gone forth also beyond the house at Bethany, and the world has been filled with the fragrance of this loving deed. It clings to this woman’s memory as an imperishable perfume; and as the gospel spreads, the sweet odour of this loving act spreads with its advance, teaching men the spirit of consecrated service, the spirit of true devotion to the Saviour. Mary had anointed Jesus; but His words, like a rich anointing, have imperishably embalmed the memory of her gentle, loving deed.
In this beautiful and touching episode, standing out more clear and beautiful against the dark background of the treachery of Judas, there are lessons of life and conduct.—
1. We cannot now imitate Mary’s act of love and devotion by doing what she did, but we may manifest the same love and do homage to Him in other ways. There are many gifts we may bring directly to Christ, many an act of service specially designed to honour Him. Love in every new age, and in every new combination of circumstances, will find and grasp the opportunity.
2. And such service done specially for Christ will never conflict with duty to the poor and indigent. What is really spent in honouring Him can never be “waste.” It is only the grasping, covetous mind that will ever grudge such manifestations of love. For in reality all that is done for His sake, and in advancing His kingdom, is in a broad but true sense done for the poor. For wherever His kingdom comes with power, there comes with it a greater care for the poor, a deeper sympathy for the wretched, a wider humanity.
3. A frequent objection to the cost of foreign missions, e.g., is that we have enough to do with home missions, the care of the poor, etc., as if the doing of one duty could absolve us from another specially commanded by Christ! If the believers of the apostolic age, and of the early Christian centuries, had acted thus, how would the gospel ever have been made known? And if we are to wait till every one at home is converted before going abroad, we shall have to wait till doomsday.
4. Beware of the sin of Judas! Temptation comes often to us in that very work for which we are best fitted. Judas was the accountant of the infant Church, perhaps because his gifts inclined him that way. His temptation lay in this very direction, that love of money which is a root of all evil. Hypocrisy and temptation made him a thief, and at last a criminal, who basely betrayed his Lord. “Lust, when it hath conceived,” etc. (James 1:15).
John 12:8. The Christian care of the poor.—The meaning of our Lord’s words is evidently this: “The poor,” etc.—As Moses wrote, “The poor shall never cease out of the land.” “But Me ye have not always.” But My person, My bodily presence, will be soon removed beyond immediate communion. The poor are always around you, but opportunities of personally ministering to My wants will soon be at an end.” Him they would have always in a spiritual sense (Matthew 28:20); but soon as the despised and rejected Emmanuel, who had not where to lay His head, He would no longer be known to them. And opportunities of thus showing their faith, homage, devotion to Him in His state of humiliation would no longer be afforded. In these words our Lord lays down the duty of Christians toward the poor in conjunction with special devotion to Christ.
I. The poor will always remain.—
1. There have been, and are, dreamers who imagine that if in some way or other all capital and property were, so to speak, commuted, then all men would be equally wealthy, that poverty would cease, and a sort of lotus-eater’s heaven begin on earth.
2. It is a vain dream, for men cannot commute and bring into one common fund health, intelligence, industry, skill, etc. These will always regain unequal, and thus some men will always rise higher than others.
3. Opportunity and position of course go for something, but they do not explain all social differences. I may be poor to-day, but my son may be rich to-morrow, having more faculty or greater skill in acquiring means. Or my neighbour may be rich to-day and his child poor to-morrow, because the latter had neither the health, nor skill, nor ability to retain and add to what has been bequeathed to him. There is a perpetual fluctuation, a rising and falling in the social scale, in so far as wealth is the standard.
4. And it is good that it should be so, otherwise humanity would stagnate. It is good for our common weal that few are absolutely idle, that all have to labour with hand or brain. And “honest poverty” that does not fall to utter destitution, but which permits the satisfaction of its simple wants, need make no man “hang his head.” It is the field on which grow many of the flowers of national virtue, and from it come forth many who are strong to endure and act for the good of the whole community.
5. But from this class, and from all classes, there come, part by force of circumstances, part through weakness of nature, and part through their own folly, a number who reach the lowest deeps of poverty, who are indigent and in want of things needful. It is to these our Lord specially referred when He said, “The poor,” etc.
II. In these words our Lord commits the care of the poor to His Church.—
1. He had made it His care while here to relieve the indigent. That was the reason partly of the existence of the “bag,” the common purse in the charge of Judas. And now our Lord made over this charge to the representatives and original members of the New Testament Church that stood around Him.
2. And certainly from what is recorded of the example of the early Church, and indications in the Gospels themselves and in our Lord’s teaching, there is much which would lead us to conclude that there should be a greater general distribution of the world’s wealth than there is. There is nothing in the New Testament to incite men to the interference with property which is a too common feature of socialistic panaceæ. But there is a warning against the accumulation of too great wealth, and the inculcation of a wider and freer spirit of benevolence.
3. “With Christianity began the organised and individual charity of modern Europe” (Loring-Brace). And it is a question whether it would not be better in a professedly Christian land to continue to permit the Church—all sections in this working in unity—to undertake the care of the poor. It is admitted by most that the present state-devised and worked method of relieving indigence is not the best; for it is neither the least expensive nor the most effective, in that it tends to break down the spirit of independence, whilst many of the most deserving indigent poor receive no benefit.
4. Hence there are still many charities in existence, having for their end the care of the poor. But never will this work be rightly done and this duty properly discharged until the Church as a whole, filled with the Spirit of her Master, realises the claims of the poverty-stricken and distressed, and, in the words of the Redeemer, “The poor,” etc., recognises the fact that these are committed to her care.
III. The cost of honour and devotion to Christ will never lessen care for and succour of the indigent and poor.—
1. Often the best way to help the poor is to help them to labour, or so to strengthen and support them that they may by-and-by be able to support themselves. So that even the pouring out of this ointment was no waste. There were poor men and women employed in the making of it and its costly case, and also in the various avenues of trade through which it came to the last buyer.
2. Thus many poor had food provided for them, and every new supply of spikenard meant bread and to spare in some humble home.
3. And especially if what is spent is dedicated with loving heart to the divine honour and glory, it will not lead to less being spent for the relief of the poor and indigent. The man who builds a church, e.g., to the glory of Christ, and who has it fitted up, with some true sense of the “beauty of holiness,” as a fitting place in which men may worship thankfully their God and Saviour, is not the man whose heart will be untouched by the tale of human misery, or whose hand will be slack in doing what the heart prompts, etc.
John 12:1-8. Jesus came from Ephraim, whither He had gone after the raising of Lazarus (John 11:54), on His way to the last passover at Jerusalem. He arrived at Jericho, in company, doubtless, with the pilgrim bands going up to keep the feast (Matthew 20:29). Resting at Jericho in the house of Zaccheus for a time, He then went on to Jerusalem (Luke 19:5; Luke 19:28), and came, as St. John records, to Bethany. The Synoptic Gospels place the incident of the anointing after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem; but that is for the purpose of bringing it into connection with the betrayal by Judas and the history of the passion generally. If we consider that the crucifixion took place “between the two evenings” of the 14th and 15th Nisan (see note, ch. 13), then the anointing took place in the evening at the close of the Sabbath, the day of rest which followed the journey to Bethany. On the following day (our Sunday) Jesus made His entry into Jerusalem amid the shouts of Hosanna. He would therefore reach Bethany on the eve of the Sabbath (the 8th Nisan).
Bethany (now called El-’Azrîyeh—El-’Azîr, i.e. Lazarus) is at present a small, poor village on the east slope of Olivet, about two miles from Jerusalem. The name signifies “house of dates.” The traces of ancient buildings, and the fact that even the houses of the present day are built out of old and somewhat heavier stones than we should expect to find villagers’ houses built of, show that at one time the place was of more importance than it is now. But almost no place in Palestine fills a greener spot in memory. It was apparently a place of rest and refreshing for the Redeemer (Matthew 21:17; Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1, etc.). And the recollection of the home there is a sunny one, with one night of darkness (John 11:17), and one passing cloud (John 12:4-6).
John 12:6. The love of money.—In every nation there are, and must always be, a certain number of those fiends’ servants who have it principally for the object of their lives to make money. They are always more or less stupid, and cannot conceive of anything else so nice as money. Stupidity is always the basis of the Judas bargain. We do great injustice to Iscariot in thinking him wicked above all common wickedness. He was only a common money-lover, and, like all money-lovers, didn’t understand Christ; couldn’t make out the worth of Him, or meaning of Him. He didn’t want Him to be killed. He was horror-struck when he found that Christ would be killed; threw his money away instantly, and hanged himself. How many of our present money-seekers, think you, would have the grace to hang themselves, whoever was killed? But Judas was a common, selfish, muddle-headed, pilfering fellow; his hand always in the bag of the poor, not caring for them. He didn’t understand Christ; yet believed in Him, much more than most of us do; had seen Him do miracles, thought He was quite strong enough to shift for Himself, and he, Judas, might as well make his own little bye-perquisites out of the affair. Christ would come out of it well enough, and he have his thirty pieces. Now, that is the money-seeker’s idea, all over the world. He doesn’t hate Christ, but can’t understand Him—doesn’t care for Him—sees no good in that benevolent business; makes his own little job out of it at all events, come what will. And thus, out of every mass of men, you have a certain number of bagmen—your “fee-first” men, whose main object is to make money. And they do make it—make it in all sorts of unfair ways, chiefly by the weight and force of money itself, or what is called the power of capital; that is to say, the power which money, once obtained, has over the labour of the poor, so that the capitalist can take all its produce to himself, except the labourer’s food. That is the modern Judas’s way of “carrying the bag,” and “bearing what is put therein.”—Ruskin.
John 12:8. The rise of organised Christian charity.—With Christianity began the organised and individual charity of modern Europe, which for these eighteen centuries has wiped away so many tears, softened so much suffering, saved so many young lives from misery and sin, ministered at so many deathbeds, made the solitary evening of life sweet to so many forsaken ones, and the morning glad to so many who would have been born to sorrow and shame; which in so many countries has cared for the sick, the blind, the deaf, the crippled, the outcast and tempted; the young, the orphan, the foundling, and the aged. Surely, if anything is a fore-gleam of that kingdom of heaven which is yet to shine over the earth, it is the brotherhood of spirit, shown in the charity of the modern world. This is most distinctly the fruit of Christ’s teachings. And yet the Master did not lay any extraordinary weight on alms-giving. He simply taught the love of man through love to Himself, that the poorest and lowest of the human race represented Himself, and what was done to them was done to Him. The equal brotherhood of man came forth from His teachings, and all human beings, of whatever rank, or under whatever disabilities of misfortune, became of equal value in the eyes of His followers, as being those for whom He lived, and in behalf of whom He felt it not unworthy to die. The unfortunate had henceforth around them the halo of the great Sufferer, and a very different place in the sympathies of the new world of Europe.—C. Loring-Brace.
John 12:8. The effect of Christianity on pauperism.—It has been alleged, with some apparent justice, that this spirit of Christian charity, which has made modern society so different from ancient, has cultivated dependence, and increased pauperism or that kind of poverty which is without hope or energy. But it should be remembered that there is nothing in the teachings of Christ or the apostles which favoured indiscriminate alms-giving, or the supporting the poor without labour. “If a man will not work, neither shall he eat,” is evidently a favourite proverb with the great apostle. He himself laboured with his own hands. The disciples were working people; and Christ, in human relations, belonged to the working classes. The type of character He stamped on men was the very opposite of the idle and dependent kind; it was earnest, self-controlled, under a deep sense of responsibility, looking continually to Him to whom men should give an account of every word and work, with the conviction of being the child of God, and therefore calling no man master.… The influence of the great Master is directly to lessen one of the greatest of human ills—pauperism. The self-control, sobriety, temperance, and moderation He teaches tend to a certain control over circumstances. The good-will He encourages brings sympathy and help from others. The great sources of poverty are idleness, intemperance, and vice. The Christian, other things being equal, is less likely to be very poor and a pauper he cannot easily be—that is, he cannot have that spirit of dependence, idleness, and dishonesty which are the essentials of pauperism. If by misfortune he come to the lowest depths of human ills, be bears as a greater One hath taught him to bear, and does not become degraded in spirit. Having a sense of his great dignity as a child of God, and one for whom Christ hath lived and died, he is less likely to become a parasite on society. And ever being in the mental habit of looking forward to the judgment of another life, he will be the more apt to provide for the ills of this; so under Christianity society tends, as has often been seen on the rugged soil and under the harsh climate of New England, to throw off pauperism and eliminate poverty. Many villages are known in that region, apparently so little favoured otherwise by Providence, where not a pauper and scarcely an abjectly poor person can be found for miles around—the causes of this good fortune being mainly moral.—Idem.
John 12:8. The manner in which Christianity may mitigate poverty in the future.—It is not claimed that religion alone in future ages can remove pauperism from the world, but the Christian belief will tend towards a more just distribution of property; it will promote temperance and good morals; it will stimulate co-operation between labourers and between labour and capital; it will encourage many forms of insurance, and above all elevate and train the character, so that the human being, though unfortunate, cannot be degraded; and thus under the influence of Christ on the world the labouring classes will be less likely to fall into extreme poverty, and if they do, will be more readily assisted, or will not sink morally. Cabet, a socialistic writer, well says: “If Christianity had been interpreted and applied in the spirit of Jesus Christ, if it had been well known and faithfully practised by the numerous portions of Christians who are animated by a sincere piety, and who have only need to know truth well to follow it, this Christianity, its morals, its philosophy, its precepts, would have sufficed, and would still suffice, to establish a perfect society and political organisation, to deliver humanity from the evil which weighs it down, and to assure the happiness of the human race on earth.”—Idem.
John 12:8. Sympathy with the poor.—Nothing seems much clearer than the natural direction of charity. Would we all but relieve, according to the measure of our means, those objects immediately within the range of our personal knowledge, how much of the worst evil of poverty might be alleviated! Very poor people, who are known to us to have been honest, decent, and industrious, when industry was in their power, have a claim on us, founded on our knowledge, and on vicinity and neighbourhood, which have in themselves something sacred and endearing to every good heart. One cannot, surely, always pass by, in his walks for health, restoration, or delight, the lone, wayside beggar, without occasionally giving him an alms. Old, careworn, pale, drooping, and emaciated creatures, who pass us by without looking beseechingly at us, or even lifting up their eyes from the ground, cannot often be met with, without exciting an interest in us for their silent and unobtrusive sufferings or privations. A hovel, here and there, round and about our own comfortable dwelling, attracts our eyes by some peculiar appearance of penury, and we look in, now and then, upon its inmates, cheering their cold gloom with some small benefaction. These are duties all men owe to distress; they are easily discharged; and even such tender mercies as these are twice blessed.—Chalmers.
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
John 12:9. Much people, etc.—Not our Lord’s enemies, but members of the pilgrim bands and friendly neighbours from the city.
John 12:10-11. But the chief priests, etc.—They saw that now it would not be sufficient to put Jesus only to death. Witnesses to His power would remain, and thus Lazarus was marked out as a victim; for many beholding this visible proof of Christ’s divine power could no longer withhold their allegiance.
John 12:12. See Homiletic Note, pp. 347, 348. Next day.—I.e. the day after the Sabbath, i.e. our Sunday. Much people.—See John 12:9.
John 12:13. Branches of palm trees.—τἀ βατα τῶν φοινίκων, which then probably grew by the way. These were used to wave in triumph before Christ. The other Evangelists mention the spreading of the path with litter cut from the trees, and garments. A comparison of the accounts of this incident in the four Gospels will show how each supplements the others. Hosanna.—Psalms 118:25. Blessed, etc.—They hail Him as the Messiah, the Sent of God, the Head of the eternal kingdom (Daniel 7:14), and the Saviour and ruler of Israel.
John 12:14. Found a young ass.—The other Evangelists tell how it was found.
John 12:15. Fear not, etc.—Zechariah 9:9. The prophet foretold that meekness and humility in the Messiah which were verified in the life of Jesus.
John 12:16. Understood not, etc.—They needed direct teaching ere they could truly understand the spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom (John 14:26; Luke 24:13-32).
John 12:17. The people, etc.—John 11:31. Not only did they shout Hosanna apparently, but testified among the others to the fact of the raising of Lazarus.
John 12:18. The people (ὁ ὄχλος).—The multitude (John 12:12).
John 12:19. The Pharisees.—All their plans against Jesus only seemed to bring greater honour to Him. Probably these men shrank at first from the more cold-blooded and murderous plan of the chief priests. But their wilful opposition to truth was leading them to accept the plan of the latter. Facilis descensus Averni.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—John 12:12-19
Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.—This triumphal entry of our Lord into Jerusalem is emblematic of His triumph in the hearts of individuals and in the world at large. “Behold, thy King cometh,” is the cry that resounds in every heart, and among the nations, when Christ’s truth is proclaimed. But His is not a kingdom which comes with ostentation. It is spiritual, not temporal. Hence, as of old, its progress is marked by meekness and lowliness, its grandeur is of an inner moral, and not of an outward material sort, and at its advent all true hearts are joyful. In considering the scene before us, notice:—
I. The humble simplicity of Christ’s regal entry into Jerusalem.—
1. It was a real royal progress, but from all the circumstances attending it evidently so unworldly and spiritual that even our Lord’s enemies made no effort to found on it in their accusation of Jesus before Pilate. “Meek and lowly” was Jesus, as He ever was during His life on earth. And all the ordinary insignia and pomp of royalty were absent from that festal throng on the brow of Olivet. No guard of soldiery on prancing steeds, with glittering display of arms and flaunting of banners, with blare of trumpet and clash of armour; no civic functionaries in robes of office grouped themselves around the King; no carpet of state of rich texture and dye was spread on His path; no chariot with protecting canopy conveyed the approaching King. All the outward insignia and emblems of royalty were lacking.
2. We see on the contrary a meek and lowly man, “His visage so marred more than any man,” bearing on His heart the sorrows of humanity. He is seated in lowly state on an ass’s colt, on which some of His few humble followers have laid their outer garments. And the crowd that accompanies Him, shouting Hosanna, possess but humble means of affording Him honour. They spread their outer garments, and strew branches of trees on the way, in lieu of richer carpeting. And in place of royal banners they wave palm branches in the air.
3. And those crowds are of the humblest. No representatives of the Sanhedrin—none of the priests, the rabbis, or other teachers of the people. None of the rulers of the city, nor their servants, waited to receive Jerusalem’s rightful King. Those who surrounded Him were probably for the most part people from provincial Galilee, where His word had been most readily received, together with some who were with Him “when He called Lazarus from the grave, and raised him from the dead,” humble folk like His own followers, far removed from anything approaching courtly pomp and pride.
4. And is not all this strikingly emblematic of the coming of our Lord as King into men’s hearts and among the nations? It is not with outward pomp men meet and welcome their King, but in meekness and lowliness. It is to the humble and contrite in heart that He is revealed, although hidden “from the wise and prudent.” And He wins men to acknowledge Him, not by the display of material glory, but by the power and gentleness of His love. He comes, not as a tyrant, but as a Saviour—not to overawe by the display of His power and glory, but to bless with His salvation. And so too is He manifested among the nations. At the proclamation of His coming and kingdom by humble followers we do not find the rulers, or men of power and wisdom, flocking to join in His royal progress. His coming is met often by the contempt and indifference of men in high station, if not by actual hatred and hostility. As of old, when He comes among the nations now, heralded by His servants with the cry, “Behold, thy King cometh,” “not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” (1 Corinthians 1:26), receive Him; only the humble who have listened to His word and experienced His power.
5. And it may surely well be asked here, whether the outward pomp and splendour, the hankering after temporal power and honour, in some sections of the visible Church, can be held to be compatible with this lowly royalty of the Redeemer. Does not this tendency to lean on outward pomp and power lead to unspirituality and weakness, and thus to obscure the true glory of the Redeemer’s advent and kingdom?
II. Its inherent glory to the eye of faith.—
1. These multitudes that went before and followed the Redeemer were not attracted to Him by any external tokens of earthly power and majesty. The Saviour wore no regal crown. He was on earth to bear one of thorns alone. He wielded no earthly sceptre, emblem of earthly authority. He wore no purple robe, significant of kingly dignity and honour. By no such outward symbols were those rejoicing crowds attracted to the Saviour. But they did see a glory greater than earth could show.
2. They recognised, in that meek and lowly One, Him that had power over the forces of nature and in the spiritual world such as the greatest of earth never can possess. Those from rural Galilee and Decapolis remembered His mighty acts of power and beneficence—His healing of men’s diseases, His satisfying their bodily needs, as He fed the thousands near the Galilean lake, His power over the spirits of evil, His ability even to snatch from Death his prisoners and set them free. His heavenly teaching they recalled also to memory—teaching “with authority, and not as that of the scribes.” The remembrance of these things, and of the beauty of His character and life, came upon them like beams from the Sun of truth, so that they realised that this could be none other than the Christ, the King of Israel, the promised Son of David. Hence their shout, “Hosanna, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
3. Thus they also recognised in Him the promised Messiah, who was to fulfil all the old prophecies and promises. All that happened on that memorable morning, St. Matthew tells us (John 21:4), was done “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.” In Him all the glory of Israel was to centre, all the ancient promises were to be fulfilled. And the most of that rejoicing crowd, on that far-away Sunday morning, recognised, though dimly and imperfectly it may be, that this lowly King was to fulfil and perfect all. They did not know, they were for the most part no doubt mistaken, as to the manner and extent in which those old prophecies were now to be fulfilled. Even the disciples did not at first understand the full meaning of this demonstration. But they caught a glimpse in faith of the great truths which were made visible in these events; and by accepting their homage and reverence Christ strengthened their faith.
4. To us there is even greater glory to the eye of faith in the coming of Christ through the advance of His kingdom, even although in its progress there is little of earthly glory or pride. We have the record of His miracles which He wrought whilst on earth, and they indeed tell us of His divine power and majesty. But we know of yet greater works than these (John 1:50-51). We see the spiritually diseased made whole, the spiritually dead made alive, the spiritual bondslaves of Satan brought into the liberty of God’s children, through the power of this same Jesus of whom it was foretold in the prophetic word, “Behold, thy King cometh to thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Matthew 21:5). We see Him also coming among the nations gently and lovingly, not with conquering sword or earthly power and glory, but in the preaching of His cross, in the story of His self-sacrificing love and pity for men. And as we gaze we see the idols bend before Him, the horrid deeds of darkness fleeing from the light of His truth, and the moral wildernesses of earth rejoicing and blossoming as the rose (Isaiah 35:1). Therefore as we view all this we too raise our shout of Hosanna! and cry,“Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
III. Its effect on men of the world.—
1. There was joy in the hearts of the disciples (Luke 19:37-40), but rage in the hearts of our Lord’s enemies. They called on Him to rebuke His disciples. And when later in the day they heard the children (those over twelve years of age who were present at the feast) also shouting Hosanna, “they were sore displeased,” and said, “Hearest Thou what these say?” (Matthew 21:15-16). And finally, seeing that they could not check this enthusiasm of the people, “the Pharisees said among themselves, Perceive ye that ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone away after Him” (John 12:19). Therefore, in place of permitting this incident to lead them to reflection on the nature and work of Jesus, in blind rage they took counsel, yet more earnestly, “to put Him to death” (John 11:53).
2. Then even as we look on the rejoicing crowd a different scene rises on our view. The shouts of jubilation on Olivet and in the temple die away, and the multitude disperses. But were there not some of them in that surging crowd round Pilate’s judgment seat who shouted, “Away with Him, crucify Him!” and who “railed on Him” as He hung on the cross on Calvary?
3. And is it not so still? There is still joy in the hearts of the disciples as Jesus comes in His kingdom among men without ostentation; but now as of old in the days of His flesh there are those who are “sore displeased” at the manifested joy of His disciples, who cast contempt on His gospel, and take counsel for its hindrance and overthrow, who “take counsel against the Lord and His anointed, saying, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast their cords away from us” (Psalms 2:2-3). Then, too, many of the multitude have proved themselves to be fickle as in those times of our Lord—one day shouting Hosanna, the next Crucify. It is too common a trait of men’s unrenewed nature, and manifests itself in all phases of the world’s history. Those sent by God experience the fickleness of men. But amid all enmity and fickleness Christ still is coming as rightful King of humanity to those who receive Him; whilst to those who in their pride of intellect and self-righteousness reject Him He says, “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise” (Matthew 21:16).
John 12:12-19. The royal entry of Christ into Jerusalem.—“Lift up your heads, O ye gates,” etc. (Psalms 24:0). This word of the Psalmist might have been specially referred to Jerusalem when Jesus revealed Himself so plainly and lovingly as the promised King of Zion, and thereby set aside every excuse that could be urged for the rejection of His person. This word comes specially home also to every Christian community, to every individual Christian, inasmuch as the Saviour comes to us spiritually, and vouchsafes to us a new period of grace in which we may “seek after Him and find Him.” We also shall have no excuse if we do not receive Christ in faith. The object of this meditation is to quicken us to a humble and joyful reception of our heavenly King. We look:—
I. At the King who makes His entry.—
1. He is the Lord of lords. His majesty shines even through the form of His humiliation, the form of a servant. He influenced the hearts of His followers with invisible might, so that at His command they gave up their temporal possessions.
2. He came poor and lowly, meek and submissive. He did not employ a proud war-steed, but a little-valued, peaceful beast of burden. He came to His Zion not in terror and with threatening, but in love and goodness, drawing and enticing men to follow Him.
II. At the people who greeted Him with their hosannas.—
1. The people rejoiced in their King who came unto them. They anticipated that He would bring salvation, and were therefore ready to offer themselves, and strenuous to receive Him worthily, i.e. with reverence and homage. We not only hope and anticipate—we know that in Christ is our salvation. Do we therefore rejoice, do we honour and do homage to Him, in rightful fashion?
2. The people with their hosannas openly acknowledged Christ as the promised Messiah, and praised God for the coming of this King. Let us also confess openly our Prince of peace, and also thank God for His advent. Do we not often act as if He must be joyful that we desire to know something of Him, although it is not He who needs us, but we who need Him? Let us receive Him as our Lord and Saviour in humble obedience, with reverent gladness and true confession.—From J. L. Sommer.
John 12:12-19. Into what hearts does the Lord Jesus to-day make His entry?—Introduction.—Jesus came in the fulness of time to His people; … and He comes also spiritually to-day to every heart desirous of receiving Him and prepared for His reception. He comes:—
I. Into obedient hearts;
II. Into the hearts of those ready to sacrifice themselves for Him;
III. Into the hearts of the humble and contrite;
IV. Into the hearts of those who confess Him.—Idem.
John 12:15. The Lord still comes to-day.—Around this entry of our Lord into Jerusalem seem to range themselves, in order unnumbered, gracious visitations in men’s hearts and homes, unnumbered victorious progresses in the ages and among the nations. The Lord still comes to us and to Christendom at large. We see that this is so:—
I. In the offerings brought to Him.—[As we learn from the Synoptic Gospels, the beast on which the Lord was seated was freely granted to Him; so, too, were the simple, improvised emblems of regal estate.] The Lord of heaven and earth appears in this incident as one who requires these gifts. The coming King desires the offerings of our love and gratitude. The Lord hath need of these. This word opens still to-day the treasuries of the rich who believe, and the hearts of the widows to bring each her mite to Him who is ever coming.
II. In the multitudes that honour Him.—The jubilation and homage of the people who accompanied our Lord on His entry into Jerusalem were but the beginning of a universal movement which took its rise from this meek yet victorious King—of a homage which men and angels, earth and heaven, have rendered Him to this present hour, and shall even to the end of the world.
III. In the song of praise with which they greeted Him.—This song has not gone silent. It arises and swells through all times and among all peoples from earth to heaven, and again from heaven to earth. To-day it resounds in many communities of the faithful, from many an altar, from so many sinful hearts which have received divine comfort. In the Church on earth and in the Church above sounds the acclaim, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9).—Appuhn in J. L. Sommer’s “Evang. Per.”
John 12:15-16. A precious advent message, and a significant advent warning.—
I. The precious advent message rung thus: “Behold, thy King cometh to thee!” (Zechariah 9:9).—
1. He comes, the King long promised, desired, waited for.
2. Thy King is He who comes.
3. He comes “in righteousness, mighty to save,” yet meek and lowly.
4. He comes to thee.
II. The significant advent warning runs thus: “Prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:12).—
1. With childlike, simple faith, willing obedience, unconditional surrender of the heart.
2. Without being offended because He is “in the form of a servant.”
3. With genuine consecration and earnestness.
4. With gladsome praises of His name.
5. With believing prayer. Hosanna! O Lord, help! Save, O Lord!—Dr. v. Biarowsky, Idem.
John 12:18-19. How are we to receive the coming King?—Christ is continually coming to individual hearts and in the world at large. Still accents of welcome greet Him. Still there are those who despise and reject Him. How should we receive Him?
I. With humble reverence.—We must ever remember that He is the Lord of glory; and that the preaching of His cross, although to men foolishness, should be to us “Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” The lowly Saviour is now exalted in the heavens, but He still comes in lowly guise, “through the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21-25). Let us therefore receive Him and His word with reverence, in however lowly guise and humble fashion He appears among us.
II. With joyful acclamation.—As the disciples and the multitude rejoiced and greeted Him with acclamation as the King of Israel, when they remembered His wondrous words and deeds, and the various proofs He had given that He was the promised Messiah; so let us hail Him as our great spiritual deliverer, remembering the wonders of His grace in ourselves and others. And as we see Him advancing, “conquering and to conquer,” by the power of His love in the hearts of men and among the nations, let us join in rendering Him the tribute of praise which is His due.
III. With unwavering loyalty.—Let us not imitate the fickle multitude. Why did He, the brightness of the divine glory, condescend to this lowly guise? Why does He still come to our hearts, entreating, “If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him”? It was because thus alone by His self-sacrificing love could we be saved. Surely, then, we too with heart and voice will join the thronging multitudes of every age and nation in the acclaim, “Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel, that cometh in the name of the Lord!”
1. It was probably on a Sunday morning, as we should say, that this striking and beautiful incident of the closing days of our Lord’s ministry occurred, i.e. if we consider that the 14th Nisan is to be reckoned as the first day of the feast. This entry into Jerusalem would thus take place on the morning of the 9th Nisan. But if it took place on the following day, the 10th, the day on which the passover lamb was set apart, then here we may see much that is fitting in the incident. The Saviour was, so to speak, set joyfully apart, proclaimed and acknowledged to be the promised Saviour with shouts of hosanna. In the Synoptic Gospels this incident seems to occur on the journey from Jericho after the healing of the blind men. Still, even in these Gospels there is evidently a break in the narrative (Luke 19:29; Mark 11:11). St. John supplies the facts omitted by the others, showing that Jesus remained overnight at Bethany, where the anointing of His feet with costly spikenard by Mary took place, which aroused the mercenary spirit of Judas, and led to his being rebuked.
2. In the morning, starting from Bethany on the south-east side of the Mount of Olives, two of the disciples were sent to bring an ass with her colt to the Saviour. And seated on the colt, He proceeded on His way, being met by a crowd from the city, many of whom spread their outer garments on the way before Him (Matthew 21:8), as a token of their reverence and devotion; whilst others brought with them palm branches, torn from the palm trees by the wayside, as a token of joy and triumph. Palm branches were seen by John in apocalyptic vision in the hands of the redeemed, as tokens of victory. Here these are a sign of joy in Jesus as the victorious King, the Messiah long promised and now revealed.
3. So also the shout of hosanna is most significant. As they rounded the brow of Olivet, and the city stood before them shining beneath the rays of the morning sun, and conspicuous in front the temple in its majestic beauty, token and type of God’s favour to and communion with the race of Israel, the joy of the multitude broke forth in the shout of Hosanna (help! grant salvation!). They beheld before them Him whom they hailed as the King of Israel, the blessed One coming in the name of the Lord. The exclamation was also a cry of jubilation and blessing, like our “God save the King.”
4. And all this fulfilled an ancient prophecy concerning Messianic times. The words of Zechariah (John 9:9) were literally fulfilled; and the prophetic call of Isaiah (Isaiah 62:11) had been in part obeyed: “Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.” Amid the rush and hurry of events of that memorable passover week the disciples did not think of nor see the connection between these events and the prophetic word. “But when Jesus was glorified” they remembered.
5. It was a striking spectacle which the bright spring sunshine of the Syrian morning greeted—a scene impressed on the memories of all who witnessed it. It is recorded in all the Gospels; and is thus accorded an importance which is special. It was a late and partial, though in its measure glorious, recognition of Jesus in His rightful position and dignity as the promised King and Saviour of Israel.
John 12:13. Hosanna!
Awake! why linger in the gorgeous town,
Sworn liegemen of the cross and thorny crown?
Up from your beds of sloth for shame,
Speed to the Eastern, mount like flame,
Nor wonder, should ye find your King in tears,
E’en with the loud Hosanna ringing in His ears.
Alas! no need to rouse them: long ago
They are gone forth to swell Messiah’s show;
With glittering robes and garlands sweet
They strew the ground beneath His feet:
All but your hearts are there—O doomed to prove
The arrows winged in heaven for faith that will not love.
Meanwhile He paces through th’ adoring crowd.
Calm as the march of some majestic cloud,
That o’er wild scenes of ocean-war
Holds its still course in heaven afar:
E’en so, heart-searching Lord, as years roll on,
Thou keepest silent watch from Thy triumphal throne.
E’en so the world is thronging round to gaze
On the dread vision of the latter days,
Constrained to own Thee, but in heart
Prepared to take Barabbas’ part:
“Hosanna” now, to-morrow “Crucify,”
The changeful burden still of their rude lawless cry.
Yet in that throng of selfish hearts untrue
Thy sad eye rests upon Thy faithful few:
Children and childlike souls are there,
Blind Bartimeus’ humble prayer,
And Lazarus wakened from his four days’ sleep,
Enduring life again, that Passover to keep.
Still through decaying ages as they glide,
Thou lov’st Thy chosen remnant to divide;
Sprinkled along the waste of years
Full many a soft green isle appears:
Pause where we may upon the desert road,
Some shelter is in sight, some sacred safe abode.
(Both) bad and good their several warnings give
Of His approach, whom none may see and live:
Faith’s ear, with awful still delight,
Counts them like minute bells at night,
Keeping the heart awake till dawn of morn,
While to her funeral pile this aged world is borne.
But what are heaven’s alarms to hearts that cower
In wilful slumber, deepening every hour,
That draw their curtains closer round
The nearer swells the trumpet’s sound?
Lord, ere our trembling lamps sink down and die,
Touch us with chastening hand, and make us feel Thee nigh.—Keble.
John 12:13-14. Transient homage.
It was roses, roses, all the way.
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad:
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags the; had,
A year ago on this very day!
The air broke into a mist with bells,
The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries.
Had I said, “Good folk, mere noise repels—
But give me your sun from yonder skies!”
They had answered, “And afterward, what else?”
Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun
To give it my loving friends to keep!
Nought man could do, have I left undone:
And you see my harvest, what I reap
This very day, now a year is run.
There’s nobody on the house-tops now—
Just a palsied few at the windows set;
For the best of the sight is, all allow,
At the Shambles’ Gate—or, better yet,
By the very scaffold’s foot, I trow.
I go in the rain, and, more than needs,
A rope cute both my wrists behind;
And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds,
For they fling, whoever has a mind,
Stones at me for my year’s misdeeds.
Thus I entered, and thus I go!
In triumphs, people have dropped down dead.
“Paid by the world,—what dost thou owe
Me?” God might question: now instead,
’Tis God shall repay! I am safer so.
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
John 12:20-36. Certain Greeks coming with a desire to see Him gave our Lord an opportunity of pointing to His atoning work as the hope of salvation for all men, i.e. the world.
John 12:20. Greeks.—Ἑλληνες, not simply Grecian Jews (Acts 6:1). They were most likely “proselytes of the Gate,” as they had come to Jerusalem to keep the feast.
John 12:21. The same came therefore to Philip, etc.—Why therefore? There were many Greeks in the region of Decapolis; and as Philip’s name is Greek, his family may have been connected, at least by trade, with the foreign residents.
John 12:22. Andrew.—His is also a Greek name; and he is mentioned before in conjunction with Philip (John 1:44; John 6:7-8).
John 12:23. Jesus answered, etc.—This answer is apparently the substance of what our Lord said to the Greeks and disciples alike. The hour is come, etc.—When the old prophecy should begin to be fulfilled (Isaiah 60:3) which told of the ingathering of the Gentiles (John 10:16).
John 12:24-26. These verses show how the glorification of the Son of man is accomplished. It is through death in the case of Christ that the fuller life is reached. And as the disciple must follow his Master, the same great result in their case is attained through self-sacrifice and self-surrender. The similarity of the teaching in St. John and the Synoptists on this point will be seen by a comparison of Matthew 10:37-39, etc., with this passage.
John 12:27. Now is my soul troubled, etc.—Soul, ψυχή, i.e. life (John 12:25), the seat of the natural feelings and emotions (Matthew 11:20-25; Matthew 26:38, etc.). Can it be wondered at that the Prince of Life should feel it a terrible ordeal to submit to death, even for a time? Even His human nature, “holy, harmless, undefiled,” must have shrunk more from this ordeal than we do who feel “we were not made to die.” What shall I say? etc.—Are the words “Father, save Me,” etc., a prayer like that uttered in Gethsemane? or are they to be read interrogatively, like the opening clause of the sentence? The following sentence seems decidedly to favour the latter view. As Godet says, “It is a hypothetical prayer.” It was the cry of nature, if nature had suffered Jesus to speak. In the words which follow He expresses what really hindered Him from addressing such a request to God: it would be a negation of all that He had yet done and suffered.
John 12:28. Father, glorify, etc.—This is the prayer Christ really uttered, and to it a speedy answer was given—a voice from heaven, etc.
John 12:29. The people therefore, etc.—This is the record of a veracious witness. One who sought to deceive would not have recorded these doubts. But why was the voice not distinct to all? Perhaps just because, as in the spiritual sphere, those who are prepared simply to receive the truth, joyfully accept it when it is presented to them; whilst others who have no desire for it will find reasons for rejecting it. An angel.—See Acts 23:8-9. Those who thus interpreted the sound took a higher view, and one in accordance with Hebrew tradition as well as with Old Testament fact (Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2).
John 12:30. Jesus answered, etc.—Our Lord attests the fact of the divine utterance, and shows that it came for the purpose of strengthening the faith of those who heard it.
John 12:31. Now is a judgment, etc.—Not ἡ κρίσις. Now is the time coming, is at hand, when “the thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed” (Luke 2:34). The prince of this world.—See John 14:30; John 16:11; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12. This “was the regular rabbinic title for Satan, whom they regarded as the ruler of the Gentiles, the Jews not being included in his kingdom” (Watkins). And as the Greeks were listening to Jesus all would understand that He here meant the beginning of the Messianic reign (Genesis 3:15, etc.).
John 12:32. See John 1:29.
John 12:34. The people answered, etc.—Christ had claimed to be Messiah (John 12:31); how then did He speak of being lifted up out of the earth (ἐκ τῆς γῆς)? Did not the law, at least as interpreted by the Jewish teachers, declare that Christ would abide for ever (see Daniel 7:14; Isaiah 2:2-5; Isaiah 9:7, etc.; Psalms 110:0.)? Who is this Son of man who is to be lifted up out of the earth? Surely He cannot be the Son of man of whom the prophets speak?
John 12:35. Walk while, etc.—Better “Walk as (ὡς with the majority of great MSS.) ye have the light.” Lest darkness overtake you, come on you, seize on you suddenly (1 Thessalonians 5:4).
John 12:36. That ye may become sons of light.—Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5. These things spake … and was hidden from them.—These solemn words are the Saviour’s closing words in His public ministry. He departed, because He was rejected. He was hidden from them. They had chosen the darkness rather than the light. It was most likely to Bethany that He went.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—John 12:20-36
John 12:20-23. The desire to see Jesus.—But a few days before the incident here recorded Jesus had come from His retirement in Ephraim to Bethany, and had been just welcomed with shouts of hosanna as the spiritual King of Israel. The last period of probation had been given to the Jewish rulers and the unbelieving section of the people. The end of it still found them hardened against the Saviour, and prepared to take more violent measures against Him when they saw that, in spite of all their threatenings (John 9:22; John 11:57), the people were being more and more attracted to Jesus (John 12:17-19). But in the midst of so much to grieve there was something also to gladden the heart of Jesus.
I. Certain Greeks desire to see Jesus.—
1. There were many pious Gentiles who had become “proselytes of the gate,” men like Cornelius and the chamberlain of Queen Candace (Acts 8:26; Acts 10:1). No doubt there were not a few such men at this time scattered up and down Palestine, and they might come in even greater numbers from the region of Decapolis.
2. These men, doubtless, came from that region, and recognised Philip and Andrew as fellow-countrymen, i.e. as coming from the neighbourhood of their home. They came first to Philip. He then consulted with his brother Andrew; for had not Jesus said He was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24)? and had He not commanded the disciples not to go into the way of the Gentiles (Matthew 10:5)?
3. But our Lord was already looking forward to the moment when the restriction laid on His ministry would be removed, and the Gentiles should be welcomed as members of His flock (John 10:16). Therefore this coming of these Greeks to Jesus was to Him a matter of joy, as in the case of the Samaritans (John 4:35-46). He was beginning to see the wider fruits of His mission—to see of the travail of His soul, etc. The prophetic word which He fulfilled at the beginning of His ministry (Matthew 4:12-17) was receiving its wider fulfilment. The Gentiles were “coming to His light.” The first braird of the coming harvest (John 4:35) was visible. And no doubt His soul rejoiced, as seeing these Greeks standing with His disciples, He said, “The hour is come,” etc.
4. The sequel of the incident, so far as the Greeks are concerned, is not stated; for John is bent on the great lessons our Lord founded on the incident. But Jesus does not “send empty away” those who come desiring to see and know Him. From His words in John 12:23; John 12:31-32, we may gather that they did not thus earnestly seek Him in vain.
II. What awakened this desire?—
1. Those men as proselytes of the gate were no doubt pious, “devout” men (Acts 10:2), men more truly religious than many of the chosen race. They had heard of Jesus, had seen perhaps the striking scene in the temple (Matthew 21:12-17), and were convinced that here was One who could fill their deepest longings.
2. The beauty of the Saviour’s character, the earnestness and lofty nature of His teaching, and the greatness of His claim—to be the Sent of God—all this, no doubt, impelled them to seek to see Jesus, and to know more of Him.
III. The desire is still expressed by many.—
1. The Greeks came first to the disciples. “It is through the mediation … of the Church of Christ that the heathen attain the personal, saving society of Christ.”
2. And there are many to-day, devout men, not only from among the heathen, but from among those in our modern world, who are “seeking the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him” (Acts 17:27), but around whom the mists and darkness of error have been creeping.
3. What responsibility, therefore, rests on the Church—on the disciples of Christ—to show Him in all the beauty of His character and the saving power of His risen life to all men! And how unapostolic, therefore, is the wrangling over trifles that prevails, while all over the world millions are perishing for lack of knowledge!
IV. The Church must herself seek to see Jesus ever more clearly if she is to lead others to see Him.—
1. Christ should ever be the beginning, middle, and end of the Church’s message—Christ as the prophet of His people, who has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68), as the great high priest of His people, by whose high-priestly, sacrificial action (John 12:24; John 12:32) salvation is made possible for men, and as the King and Head of His Church, who will establish in triumph His universal and eternal dominion (John 18:36-37).
2. And in order that the Church may more fully and clearly deliver this message, she must have close communion with her living Head. To the office-bearers and members of the Church Christ must become a living reality. They must not be content with the mere knowledge of doctrines about Christ, though this is needful also. Faith in Him as a living, personal Redeemer, and fellowship with Him through the Spirit, are the essential needs of the Church. Without these all else is vain. Numbers, sanctities of worship, learning, and even outward activity will not serve the end for which they exist.
3. But the presence of the Spirit of Christ in the heart of His people, leading to burning zeal, tender pity, ardent love for those for whom Christ died—for a perishing world—would more and more attract the heathen—make straight the way for the erring, dispel doubts, arouse the indifferent, till men everywhere should come to the Church, saying, We too would see Jesus.
John 12:24-25. Through death to life.—Our Lord had been moved deeply by the coming of “certain Greeks” to see Him. He recognised in their advent the earliest tokens of that abundant harvest yet to be reaped. But ere this could be He must depart. His rejection by Israel must be completed. He must die, and in His death become the world’s life. “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” etc. In this familiar image our Lord shows forth the deep meaning of His death and resurrection as the hope of His people, also as their encouragement and example in enduring.
I. The death of Christ is the hope of His people.—
1. The corn of wheat is cast into the ground by the sower, and dies. It dies as a grain of wheat, but is not destroyed. There is a germ of life in the grain which dissolution cannot harm. But the seed must die if that germ is to be liberated and to become fruitful.
2. If it be not cast into the ground it abideth, alone; it cannot accomplish its destined purpose. It must fall into the ground; its wrappings must fall off, its substance be transformed; in short, it must perish as a grain of wheat in order that it may spring up and bring forth fruit.
3. So was it with the Saviour. Whilst He remained on earth, despised and rejected despite His heavenly teaching and wondrous works, He abode practically alone. Only a few faithful ones gathered around Him. The world did not understand Him. Neither, indeed, did those who faithfully clung to Him understand the full significance of His mission. It was necessary that He should die, ere the full meaning of His redemptive work should be known through the teaching of the Spirit, and men should learn that a way of eternal safety through time to eternity had been opened up through the cross.
4. Had Jesus not gone on to Calvary to die for men’s sins, where had been their hope of pardon and reconciliation with God? They would still have pursued the weary quest of the waiting ages, and still the cry had gone up, “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?” etc., and the plaint, “Oh that I knew where I might find Him!” (Job 23:3). But on the cross the cry of humanity was answered when Jesus said, “It is finished,” and died for men—“the Lamb of God, that beareth away the sin of the world.”
II. The result of Christ’s death is a great spiritual harvest.—
1. The seed-corn cast into the earth dies as a seed-corn. The external wrappings and envelopes are thrown aside. But the unseen germ, hidden safely away, remains not only unharmed, but is helped by the decay of those coverings. Then the living portion of the plant begins to swell and push its way upward through the earth, till the warmer sunshine and refreshing rains of spring draw it from its earthly hiding-place, and it peeps above ground, an earnest of harvests yet to be reaped.
2. So was it with our Lord. He died, and was laid in the tomb; and there, in some fashion we understand not, the body of His humiliation became the body of His glory, and He arose conqueror of death and the grave for His people, the firstfruits of them that sleep in Him—a glorious harvest of humanity rescued from death and the grave unto life eternal.
3. This shall be the final result in that harvest which is the end of the world (Matthew 13:39). But now through the power of His risen life—the germ of life eternal in the hearts of those united to Him by faith—the fields of earth are ripening to the harvest.
4. When He died there were but few who followed Him. But how fruitful was that death in the coming days! See how the green blades sprang above the ground all around—how the timid who had hidden themselves came into the light of day, as if some spiritual spring had called them forth! See how in response to Pentecostal showers the hope and promise of the universal harvest germinated in every quarter! And see how in spite of blight and storm and heat of persecution it is spreading worldwide! The idols bow the head and fall never to rise in every quarter of the world, and millions upon millions rise to show forth Christ’s glory.
5. At some far-distant age the first seed-corn was sown in the world, when as yet its fields lay wild and waste. But now every land has its harvest. And thus it has been in the history of Christ’s Church. “There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the tops of the mountains: the fruit thereof shall be like Lebanon” (Psalms 72:16). It was this Jesus foresaw when the Greeks were led to Him by Andrew and Philip. “The hour had come that the Son of man should be glorified.”
III. Christ’s spiritual seed grows in His likeness.—
1. His people die with Him unto sin, and live with Him unto righteousness. “He that loveth his life,” etc., who keeps and hoards the external wrappings of the soul’s true life, shall remain unfruitful. “And he that hateth,” etc.—he that subordinates the lower and earthly to the higher, inner, spiritual life—“shall keep it unto life eternal.” All that was best even in the lower shall through this abnegation of it be incorporated and intensified in the growth of the higher. “The cross must be our pattern as well as our trust.”
2. And when believers are thus united with Christ in the likeness of His death (Romans 6:5), they grow up in the likeness of His spiritual life. In every faithful heart Christ lives anew. “I have been crucified with Christ: and it is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20).
3. The Christian grows up in spiritual freedom. “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath dominion over Him no more.… Even so reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin,” etc. (Romans 6:9; Romans 6:11). The believer is no more the slave of sin unto death, but is now the happy servant of Christ, the spiritual son of the heavenly Father, whom He will honour (John 12:26).
4. The believer grows up in Christ’s spiritual beauty; each advance in growth sees some added grace of character. “He shall grow as the lily,” “he shall be changed into the same image” (2 Corinthians 3:18), until finally “he shall be like Him, seeing Him as He is.”
5. And like the Saviour’s self-sacrifice, the Christian’s life of self-denial will be fruitful for good in the world. “The blood of the martyrs has been the seed of the Church.” And the self-sacrificing lives of His true followers best lead men to living faith in Him.
Learn.—Trust in His cross; imitation of His example.
John 12:26. Christ our example in spiritual service.—Christ is our example in the service of God; and as He was faithful as the servant of Jehovah, and in all things did His Father’s will, so are we to follow Him. “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me.… If any man serve Me, him will the Father honour.” The type of service which He demands from us is of the same sort as that which He Himself rendered—a willing, trustful, complete obedience in the whole life, and in all its activity. It is to be feared that many of His professed followers fail to rise to this conception of the Christian life; and sometimes popular presentations of the gospel tend to perpetuate this fatal error. “Get your soul saved” is the burden of much of modern evangelical preaching. No doubt this is the chief thing, so far as men personally are concerned; for “except a man be born anew,” etc. (John 3:3). But men are not to be left ever in the condition of spiritual children, and fed on milk (Hebrews 5:12-13): they are to be nourished and built up for the higher life of service. Much of the “spiritual awakening” of recent years has simply been an “awakening” of infantile Christians into a higher life of service. And every agency with such a tendency is to be hailed with joy. What indeed is one great end of revelation—especially New Testament revelation—but to build up believers and fit them for this life of service? For what end was the Spirit sent forth, the means of grace established, the stated ministry of the Church set apart? And our Christianity is weak and ineffective in so far as it does not rise toward this goal. And as Christ said to His Father, “I have glorified Thee on the earth by finishing the work,” etc. (John 17:4), so His disciples are to press toward this chief end of their being, in His service. Those who would serve Christ faithfully must, following His example as the servant of Jehovah—
I. Hear His voice.—
1. Beyond question, ere they can begin to obey Him as His servants, they must hear His voice spiritually quickening them. That is what Christ meant when He said, “The hour is coming, and now is,” etc. (John 5:25).
2. But having heard that voice speaking to them with quickening power, they must prove that they have done so by obeying His commands, following His instruction. They must have their “ear open morning by morning” (Isaiah 50:4) to catch the accents of His voice in that divine word which His Spirit has inspired, and in those spiritual impulses to forsake the evil and follow the good; and by entreating Him in earnest prayer to quicken their spiritual ear, so that they may more readily hear and understand.
3. And may it not be that we oftentimes are troubled and perplexed, our way enwrapped in mist, because we are not in this following the example and command of Him who is the light of the world, and who says of His true followers that they hear and know His voice? Further—
II. In the activity of their lives, their speech and action, they serve Him.—
1. To hear, with the true disciple and servant of Christ, is to obey. It was evident this was so in the case of Christ; and so it must be in greater or less degree with His servants. They must not act like the son in the parable, who in answer to his father’s command, “Son, go work,” etc., replied, “I go, sir: and went not” (Matthew 21:28; Matthew 21:30). And yet are there not too many of this class in the Christian Church? By their professed unity in the Church, openly declared at the table of communion, not a few say, “I go,” in answer to God’s command, “Go work to-day,” etc. “You will search the vineyard in vain for too many of them; some get no nearer than a peep across the hedge,” whilst others deliberately turn their backs on it, and spend their energies in the fields of the world.
2. But Christ’s true followers “do not so learn” Him (Ephesians 4:20). When they give heed to His word and the teaching of His Spirit, then the “Spirit of the Father” speaketh in them (Matthew 10:20), and they use the gift of speech as the Son did for the divine glory. They earnestly endeavour to let “no corrupt communication proceed out of their mouths,” but “that which is good” (Ephesians 4:29), and to let their speech be “always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6).
3. In the work of life, and its every action, Christ’s true servants seek to imitate Him in the divine service. How eagerly did Jesus declare and show it to be His meat to do the will of the Father, and to finish His work! And was not His word to His followers a clear call to imitate Him in this, “We must work the works,” etc. (John 9:4)? And is not this one of His most precious promises to the disciples that they should continue His work (John 14:12)? “If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love” (John 15:10). “Ye are My friends,” etc.; “Henceforth I call you not servants,” etc. (John 15:14-15). Just as there was unity of purpose between the Father and Christ in all Christ’s activity on earth, so Jesus said there would be the same unity between Him and His disciples, and therefore will they be His friends and brethren in the Father; for “He shall make known unto them all things which He heard from His Father.” Therefore will the true disciple of Christ seek in all things ever to do His will and finish His work.
III. Christ’s disciples follow Him and serve Him in the path of suffering.—
1. “Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow,” said the prophet in Christ’s name, as He foretold His life of suffering here below. And how did His apostles rejoice “because they were counted worthy to suffer for that name” (Acts 5:41)! In Christian lands to-day men have not thus to suffer, although they still have to do so among the heathen. To-day even in many quarters of the world men have to endure tribulations, suffering wrongfully, for the name of Christ and in His service.
2. But we also have our afflictions. The night sometimes darkens around us; the stroke sometimes falls heavily; so that in the darkness, weariness, pain, the spirit is nigh overwhelmed, and from the lips bursts out involuntarily the cry, “Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies?” (Psalms 77:0).
3. It is in such hours that the example of our Lord and Master is fitted to cheer and encourage. As He in the hour of deepest darkness, in which He cried “Eli, Eli,” etc. (Matthew 27:46), lost not His trust in His Father; so we surely in our hours of sorrow, pain, and perplexity may well trust and fear not, if we are consciously following the Saviour. Did He not in love endure for our sakes? and will He then put on us more than we can bear? Does not “the light affliction which is but for a moment”? etc. (2 Corinthians 4:17).
4. For just as the cross of Jesus, the acme of suffering and sorrow, has become the emblem of His glory; so to those who endure, “the proof of their faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, [shall] be found unto praise,” etc. (1 Peter 1:7).
John 12:25-26. The spirit of true service.—It is a spirit of joyful willingness and self-surrender. Not alone at the beginning, when the soul has just been quickened to the higher life, is the true servant to say, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” But all along the course of life, even to the end. And during its course there will be manifested:—
I. A growing sense of trust in God and our Redeemer.—
1. The remembrance of the divine love and favour, and that God has in Christ granted the new spiritual life, will lead to the assurance that with Him also He will give all things (Romans 8:0.).
2. This confidence will increase as life goes on; each day will disclose new mercies, and the divine promises will grow brighter and more assured.
II. A continued confidence that our material needs will be met.—
1. “Whoever serveth as a soldier at his own charges?” (1 Corinthians 9:7), asked the apostle when writing to the Corinthians of the duty of upholding the ministry. But at the same time he showed that he did not depend on men for such help, but on God.
2. So every true disciple learns confidently to trust God for all needed help to fit him for and sustain him in his work. God will not send us on a warfare at our own charges. True servants of Christ, who are setting their affections on things above, are ever sustained and strengthened in their arduous endeavour.
III. A constant consecration of all life’s duties and work.—
1. Each day of our life has its special work and duty, its own perplexities and sorrows. But these are not unknown or indifferent to Christ.
2. Nay, it is just in these, as in all things, that we are to serve Him. We are not to wait for some special position here, some outstanding work, or for the future life, in order to render to our God and Saviour our willing service. The future belongs to God. We are to serve joyfully and trustfully as the Saviour did here, by dedicating to Him the duties and labours of the present days.
John 12:27-33. Jesus’ prayer and the answering voice from heaven.—The thrill of joyful exultation in the mind and heart of Jesus, as He sees in prospect the travail of His soul, is quickly succeeded by the thought of the awful pathway He must tread ere the mighty work is accomplished. This prayer is the prelude of Gethsemane. It is a definite step toward that mysterious conflict, with its “strong crying and tears,” its “sweat as of great drops of blood,” and its utter self-renunciation.
I. Jesus troubled.—
1. The man Christ Jesus, the Prince of life, recoiled from the awful strife before Him. We can in some measure understand how He, the perfect One, would shrink from death even more than we do.
2. Then there was doubtless the thought of His people, the lost sheep of the house of Israel, who in rejecting Him should be rejected (John 12:48), whose rulers were even then engaged in dark plots against Him.
3. And there was also pressing on Him that load of the world’s guilt which He was to bear away, that cup which He was to drain to the bitter dregs, and which was soon to be given Him to drink—the cup of sorrow, pain, and horror, which culminated in that hour of darkness and terrible sense of aloneness on Calvary. Our great High Priest was not untouched with the feeling of our infirmities; and it was He, who was “in all points tempted like we are,” who was thus troubled in prospect of the cross and “all its shame and woe.”
II. The direction in which Jesus turned for relief when troubled.—
1. As the faithful and obedient incarnate Son He turned toward His Father. Jesus prayed; for in trouble and sorrow He was as we are (Hebrews 2:17). He did not conceal from Himself the terrible nature of the coming conflict, and looked to the Father for strength and comfort.
2. The first cry is a perplexed question, showing the conflict in Jesus’ breast—a question as to the possibility of the cross being lifted from Him, of the hour being averted. “Shall I say, Save Me,” etc.
3. But in a moment this thought is put aside. It is seen to be incompatible with the purpose for which He had come unhesitatingly to face this hour. The passion to be entered upon is indeed the only way in which the divine, eternal purpose He had undertaken to carry out could be fulfilled. Only thus can the world be redeemed and the “prince of this world be cast out.” Therefore Christ casts away all thought of the possibility of being saved from the hour before Him, and in willing submission resolves to carry out the eternal, divine purpose: “For this cause came I to this hour.”
4. And now the loftiest flight of prayer is reached by the Saviour: “Father, glorify Thy name.” To this height of filial submission only the divine Son, and unfallen spirits, and those who in Christ become children of God can truly attain. There could be no diviner prayer, as there can be no higher purpose than the divine glory. “What Thou willest, what Thou desirest, O Father, this is My purpose, though the way to the performance of that will leads by the cross and through the grave.”
5. The conflict is now over, the dark cloud withdraws itself, and the Redeemer is further strengthened to go forward to victory.
III. The audible answer to Christ’s prayer.—
1. “Then came a voice from heaven,” etc. This voice is the third audible utterance from heaven during the sojourn of Jesus on earth—the first at His baptism, the second on Tabor, the third here. All proclaim the glory of the Son, but this utterance is to a wider circle. The time has come when the glory of the divine Name will be manifested through the Son in strange and unexpected manner. Hitherto it had been seen in mighty works and divine teaching; now it would be seen—strange contrast—on the cross.
2. And the answer has been verified. Men glory in the cross as the highest exhibition of divine mercy and love. The essential character of the Eternal shines in it most conspicuously. In it the way of salvation and eternal blessedness for humanity is opened up; for with the cross are bound up the resurrection of the Saviour and His ascension to the heavenly places, whence He rules His Church, and where He reigns till all foes of His kingdom shall be finally vanquished.
3. And in every step of progress made by His kingdom here, in every soul quickened from death to life, in every citadel of the kingdom of darkness overthrown—in short, in every new region of earth made glad with the fruit of righteousness—all is “through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11).
IV. The double purpose of this audible answer to Christ’s prayer.—
1. It was doubtless intended to strengthen the Saviour and comfort Him in view of what lay before Him, as afterward for the same purpose an angel appeared to Him in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43).
2. And that it did cheer and comfort the Saviour we may gather from the firm declaration of His assured expectation of final victory. That assurance was attained in His own willing submission to the Father’s will and desire for the Father’s glory. It was not necessary for Him that the Father should audibly give the answer to this prayer (John 11:42). Yet can we doubt that this voice from heaven would cheer and rejoice the ?Song of Song of Solomon 3:0. We seem to detect an echo of this rejoicing in the triumphant word, “Now is a judgment of this world,” etc. The cross would discriminate. Around it would be gathered the children of light; against it would be marshalled the powers of darkness in vain. “For the prince of this world” would be vanquished (Colossians 2:14-15). And Christ is drawing all men unto Him (2 Corinthians 5:20) by the power of His love—not compelling, not driving—men of every tribe and nation. He brings a salvation free and full for all who will not resist the drawings of His mighty love.
4. But the voice came not only, not chiefly, because of Jesus, but for the sake of those who heard it, especially those who believed, so that the remembrance of this heavenly testimony might strengthen their faith. Indeed, was it not they alone who heard the voice speaking, who heard the words, whilst to others the voice was simply a sound like that of thunder? The unbelieving were not expecting that there would be any divine answer; and when it came audibly, it passed before they caught its import. Others whose spiritual nature was in unison with God both heard and understood, and were confirmed in their faith, as the voice on Tabor confirmed the faith of the disciples (2 Peter 1:17-18).
1. Jesus is our example in prayer: in time of trouble the same blessed source of strength and comfort is open to ns.
2. He is our example in submission to the divine will: acquiescence in the Father’s will is the true source of inward peace and strength to endure.
3. He is our example, as the divine Son, in desiring the highest good—the divine glory.
John 12:34-36. Believe in the Light, walk in the Light.—In John 12:23 Jesus had spoken of Himself as the Son of man who should be glorified. The Jews understood clearly enough this reference to the Messiah. But when He spoke of dying and being lifted up out of the earth, the people were perplexed; for was it not a commonplace of their teachers that Christ should “abide for ever”? Did not the prophet foresee the Son of man coming to take His kingdom, which was to be an everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7:14)? Who is this Son of man? An important question truly, but one which Jesus had often answered. All His life, His teaching, His activity, had been a fulfilment of prophecy concerning Him. The Light had been shining, but their eyes were blinded. Now was their opportunity—the last. In brief space it would pass away, and then the darkness would fall, dense and terrible, on the race of Israel.
I. The traveller to eternity needs light for his journey, and must advance toward his goal while it is day.—
1. The need of spiritual light is admitted by men as a whole; and all the religious and moral systems which men have built up have been designed to light the darksome way through time.
2. And God has given light to men (John 8:12). It remains, therefore, that they should advance by that light whilst they have it. The Jews were blinding themselves to the light by seeking to reconcile Christ’s teaching with their preconceived interpretations of law and prophecy, in place of simply looking to the Saviour, and opening their minds to receive the truth as plainly revealed in Him.
3. So also many now concern themselves with matters of secondary importance in religion, its mere externals, its forms and modes, whilst they miss the true meaning, and thus the comfort and guidance which the gospel is designed and fitted to bring them.
4. Others still, whilst professing to know the “Son of man,” altogether fail to walk in His light, and on their way linger entranced by the occupations and pleasures of time, until the solemn night of dissolution descends in awful swiftness, and snatches from them their opportunities for ever.
II. The way of escape from the power and fear of darkness is to become children of light.—
1. This men attain to by believing in the Light. They thus become transformed into the likeness of Christ. They imitate Him, reflect His character, and escape evermore from the darkness of sin, ignorance, error, and above all from that spiritual blindness which is unconscious of the presence of light.
2. This is a call to receive Christ into our hearts by faith, to follow Him in the activities of life, and in the display of acts of Christian love; and thus we shall abide in the light, and there will be none occasion of stumbling in us (1 John 2:10).
3. With this blessed assurance the public ministry of Jesus closed. Truly He was the Light of men. How great was His patience with the unbelieving! how infinite His compassion! and how terrible was the doom of those who through unbelief had blinded their eyes! And how loud is the warning voice which speaks from these words; and how glorious the prospect of being “light in the Lord” through believing!
John 12:21. “We would see Jesus.”—These words were uttered, probably, in the Court of the Gentiles, as He passed from the Court of the Women, which, as the most public place for Jewish assemblies, was the frequent scene of His teaching. On the previous day, the Court of the Gentiles had been cleansed from the traffic and merchandise which had been customary in it, and the temple had been declared to be “a house of prayer for all nations.” The Court of the Gentiles was divided from the inner square of the temple by a stone fence, bearing upon pillars, placed at regular distances, the following words in Greek and Latin: “No alien must pass within the fence round the temple and the court. If any one be caught doing so, he must blame himself for the death that will follow.” This prohibition was known before, from Josephus (Ant., xv. 11, 5); but in our own day one of the very slabs, bearing the exact words, has been discovered by M. Ganneau during the excavations of the Palestine Exploration Fund (comp. Acts 22:28-29, and especially Mark 11:17). The events and the words of these days must have brought strange thoughts to the minds of proselytes, men who were worshippers of the one God by personal conviction, and not because of the faith of their ancestors; and with heart filled with wonder as to what these things meant, half grasping, it may be, the truth that this middle wall of partition should be broken down, they ask for a special interview with Jesus (comp. Ephesians 2:12 et seq.).—H. W. Watkins.
John 12:27. “Now is My soul troubled.”—Note the punctuation of this verse, for everything depends upon that: “Now is My soul troubled; shall I say, Father, save Me from this hour?” Put the mark of interrogation after the word “hour”; then you have the whole meaning,—“Now is My soul troubled; shall I say, Father, save Me from this hour?” Then He answers Himself: “For this cause came I into the world; for this cause came I unto this hour”: I will not say, Save Me from this hour; I will say, Father, glorify Thy name. Then there came a voice from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to Him.” Thus it always is: there are always two explanations of events; the vulgar will call the explanation thunder, and the spiritually refined will call it an angel.—Dr. Joseph Parker.
John 12:28-29. The voice from, heaven.—Every man hears in God’s voice what he is fit to hear. Obviously there was an objective something, an audible sound. To the deafest there was a vague impression of some majestic noise from heaven, which said nothing, but was grand and meaningless as a thunder-clap. Others, a little more susceptible, caught something like articulate words, but discerned no significance, though they felt their sweetness and dignity, and so thought them an angel’s voice. “Ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” We can dull our ears till they will not even recognise God’s voice as thunder, and, if it sounds meaningless to us, it is our own fault.—Dr. A. Maclaren.
John 12:31-33. Christ victorious through death.—If He thought of Himself only as a martyr, one among many, it was gross exaggeration to say that His death headed the black roll of the world’s sins. On that hypothesis of His person, there have been many other deaths quite as criminal. Only the full-toned view of who and what the victim was warrants such a construction of the guilt of His slaying as is here. Still more extravagant, on the supposition that Jesus is simply the best of men and teachers, is that other triumphant cry of victory over the defeated and cast-out “prince of this world.” Only the full-toned view of the death of Christ as the sacrifice for the world’s sins can warrant such a construction of its power to redeem the world from the tyranny of that usurper, and to dislodge him from his fortress. He and all his hosts hold their own, undisturbed by teachers and martyrs, but they flee before the power of the cross of the Son of God, “who taketh away the sin of the world.” He “made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” The judgment and defeat are immediate results of the cross, but the last issue, which Jesus stays Himself by beholding, is one that begins, indeed, contemporaneously with these, but stretches on through all time, and blesses each coming generation. Of course, the “lifting up” here is primarily a designation of the crucifixion (John 3:14); but that is contemplated in connection with the other lifting up from the earth, in His ascension and session at the right hand of God. To draw men to Himself is the work of Christ till the end of the world. His magnet is the cross. That drawing does not imply universal yielding to itself, for there may be resistance to it; but for evermore there stream out from the cross powers which lay hold on hearts, and sweetly and mightily grapple them to Jesus. He Himself, and nothing less, is the centre; and what conquers men to be His, is His death.—Idem.
John 12:20. The promise of harvest.—What about the first blade that pierces the dull earth and stands up in green beauty: is it a favourite? No, it is better; it is a harbinger; it says, “I have only come first; they are all coming.” It is not elected in the sense of other green blades having been blighted underground: it is elected in some sense of precedence; it outran the others; they all started together, but this little one came up first, elected to preach the harvest, called, not to singularity, but to expressiveness, to algebraic suggestiveness, saying, This is the indication that you must presently get your sickles ready, for we are all alive and all unfolding and all coming; to-morrow the land will be green, and the day following it will be yellow with corn. The blade is only first, because there are more to follow. It would be neither first nor last if there were no succession; it would stand alone, it would be without an arithmetical indication at all, except there be some word that signifies loneliness, some figure that typifies isolation; it is either first or last, because there are more.—Dr. Joseph Parker.
John 12:25. All for Christ.—The glory of a Christian is Christ in heaven, and Christ’s glory is His Church on earth. The believer is a true child of God, who, clothed with Christ’s righteousness, walks in holy fear and willing obedience before his Father. Do not wonder, then, that there meet you in the Church of Christ such a one as Polycarp, who, when threatened with the stake if he would not curse Christ and offer to the gods, replied, “Eighty and six years have I served my Saviour, and He hath done me nothing but good; how could I curse my Lord and King, who hath saved me?”—as an Ignatius, who thus wrote from his Roman prison to his Church: “Let fire and conflict, breaking of the bones and tearing asunder of the members, nay, let the burning of the whole body and all the malice of the devil come upon me, if I may have but Christ with me. I seek Him who died for us; I desire Him who rose again for us. My earthly desires are crucified; the fire of God’s love burns within me with unquenchable glow—it calls, Come to the Father”;—as a Chrysostom, who, after a laborious life for the sake of the confession of the truth, and when dying in exile breathed out his soul with the words, “God be praised for all”;—as a John Huss, who, from the midst of the flames of martyrdom in Constance, thus prayed: “Lord Christ, I will bear this terrible death with joy for the Gospel’s sake, but I pray Thee forgive my foes”;—as a Theodore Beza, who, standing face to face with the ruler of France, thus spoke: “The Church of Christ is indeed like a lamb dumb before her shearers, but she is also like an anvil on which the strongest hammer may he shattered”;—finally, as a Dr. Martin Luther, who, at the imperial diet at Worms before Emperor and Court, in the most decisive moment of his life, finished his heroic confession in these words: “Here I stand—I cannot do otherwise; God help me. Amen.” It is indeed Christ who, in all these standard-bearers of His holy kingdom, radiates forth His power and His life, so that they have overcome through the blood of the Lamb and through the word of their testimony, “and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).—Translated from F. Arndt.
John 12:27. Prayer, a way of deliverance from trouble.—The more we give place to our own thoughts and plans, the more we seek through our own power some opening on this land or on that, so much the more dark will our way appear, our dispeace become greater, our mind more perplexed, and the way of escape more doubtful. Many in this way have fallen into such tortures of anxiety, and even despair, that they have been stupefied, deprived of thought, and thus led to take some foolish step, through their own folly sinking deeper and deeper into misfortune. Often indeed such people have thus lost their reason. It is impossible in our own strength to overcome soul trouble. Take up the task as you will—flee loneliness, amuse yourselves, seek to dull feeling, fly into the face of danger, turn your attention to other things, resolve firmly, I shall no longer give way to these thoughts, I shall resist them, put them aside, root them out, let it cost what it will—it will be of no avail. The heavy thoughts will return again, will follow you into society, will rob you of your nightly slumber. They will become only the more powerful the more you seek with hatred to put them down. One thing only can help you—prayer to the Lord. Prayer enables us to recover ourselves, brings peace, gives assurance, confidence, hope. Prayer opens up the true way of escape and deliverance from all trouble and danger.—Idem.
John 12:35. The use of opportunity.—Have we been decided and active in using our opportunities for spiritual improvement and doing good? You remember perhaps the legend of mediæval times, of the young maiden, who, one evening as twilight was falling, rowed out in a skiff on a lake which lay before her father’s castle. As the dreamy twilight descended she fell asleep; and while she slept, the string of her beautiful pearl necklace broke, and one by one the precious gems dropped into the still waters of the lake, till when she woke she found that her gems were lost for ever. This legend is symbolic of many a human life. How many of us have allowed ourselves to slip easily along while we slumbered, not aware or unheeding that golden opportunities were slipping away for ever as the moments sped! or, while we have dreamily hesitated, they have escaped from our grasp! Let us then seek for greater grace and strength, that we may be decided in our Christian calling, that there may be no shirking of duty, no shamefacedness, no wavering; but that we may be able always to stand “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
John 12:37-43. The Evangelist’s statement of the causes of Jewish unbelief, and of the timidity of many who believed, which prevented them confessing Christ.
John 12:37. τοσαῦτα, “so many,” to be distinguished from τοιαῦτα, “so great” (Reynolds, etc.).
John 12:38. Report (i.e. the message given to the prophets to be delivered by them) … arm of the Lord.—Both the teaching and the signs wrought by Christ failed to lead the mass of the people to faith.
John 12:39. Therefore they could not, etc.—It seems to be a law of the spiritual and moral life that a wilful disregard of truth, e.g., leads to an inability to be influenced by the truth. The nature remains impervious to it. Just as the prophesying of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:0.) tended only to harden the hearts of the unbelieving in his day, so our Lord’s teaching and miracles hardened the hearts of the Jews because of their wilful unbelief (John 12:40).
John 12:40. That they should not, etc. (ἵνα μὴ ἴδωσι).—Describes the result, and not the cause.
John 12:41. When, etc.—Better (with the best MSS.) δτι, because he saw, etc. The prophecy was given in consequence of the prophetic vision of the glory of the Lord. “Was this the glory of the triune God?” (Cyril, see Wordsworth, Greek Testament) (Revelation 4:8-11; Revelation 5:12-14 : comp. Isaiah 6:0,).
John 12:42. Put out of the synagogue.—See John 9:22; John 7:13.
John 12:43. The glory of men.—See John 5:44.
John 12:44. Cried (ἔκραξε).—These words were doubtless uttered in the hearing of His more immediate disciples, and contain encouragement and warning for them. It was a cry from His heart, grieved at His rejection by His own people, and solicitous for the stability of His followers’ faith.
John 12:45. See John 14:9. See.—I.e. behold, contemplate.
John 12:46. See John 8:12.
John 12:47-48. See John 3:17; John 8:15-16. Those who reject Christ shall be self-condemned. The opportunity and means were given them; but they would not (Luke 10:16; Luke 19:44; Matthew 23:37).
John 12:49. Of Myself.—All through this Gospel Christ declares His unity of will and purpose with the Father (John 5:30, John 7:16-18; John 7:28-29; John 8:26-29; John 8:38; John 8:42, etc.).
John 12:50. His commandment is life eternal.—Proverbs 19:16; Romans 7:10. It is so with all God’s laws, material and spiritual. They are ordained to life. And eternal Wisdom speaks in Christ’s words (Proverbs 8:1; Proverbs 8:4; Proverbs 8:32-36).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—John 12:37-50
John 12:37-41. “Who hath believed our report?”—What is needed in order that we may not fall into the error of those who do not believe the heavenly report, who, if not in words, yet in reality reject and despise the Saviour? This is a question of supreme moment for all who profess to be genuine disciples and followers of Christ, children of the heavenly Father. Yet to how many, confronted with the prophetic word, might Philip’s question be repeated: “Understandest thou what thou readest?” (Acts 8:30). Can anything be more important? Still are there not many whose energies and thoughts concentrated on other matters are most fruitful, but who in regard to this supreme matter are but as “babes in Christ,” subsisting on the mere elements of the faith, and never going on to perfection? Is this right? and is it wonderful, when we consider it, that the religious life of the Church is not so healthy as it should and might be, and that the progress of Christ’s kingdom is retarded? What we all need is an assured faith, and then the arm of the Lord will be revealed to us, the power of the gospel will be manifested in us and to the world. And this assured faith rests on simple elementary truths such as all men, the simplest and most unlearned, may know and understand. There need only be mentioned—
I. The sense of sin and our responsibility to God.—
1. The sense of sin is universal as humanity. Go where we will, the ideas of right and wrong will be found subsisting, and the deep sense of guilt on account of wrongdoing is expressed in all religions, in sacrificial rites, even in the fetich worship of the barbarian. You cannot escape from this universal belief in the sense of sinfulness among men.
2. And with this comes the sense of responsibility. Conscience speaks within men’s hearts, and declares that they are responsible to that Power which rules over all, and that, unless in some way it can be averted, the punishment for wrongdoing, for the transgression of the law of right which governs the universe, will be speedy and awful.
3. The realisation of this fundamental truth is essential for the true religious life. All professed Christians will confess in a general way that they are “miserable sinners.” But there must be an individual and personal realisation of the fact. Sin must be recognised in all its hideousness and horror in the light of the divine holiness; the awfulness of its indwelling power must be felt by the individual, until he turns from it with loathing, crying, “God be merciful,” etc. The next step will then be to seek—
II. A way of escape from sin and its guilt.—
1. The slave bound in fetters sighs for liberty; the shipwrecked sailor, adrift on a spar, with the lonely ocean all around, looks and longs for a passing ship; the sick man turns to the skilful and trusted physician.
2. So do those who awake to a sense of their spiritual bondage sigh for a Redeemer and deliverance; those adrift on the ocean of life, knowing not whither they are being carried, to what awful mystery beyond, long for some ark of safety; the man who feels that a subtle poison is corrupting his soul-life longs for a skilful spiritual physician.
3. And does not the history of the past tell how fruitlessly men endeavoured for themselves to discover a remedy, construct an ark, and gain a spiritual freedom? They still groan in their chains, many of them; the wrecks of their flimsy arks are scattered all along the shores of time, and the physicians they sought have proved spiritual charlatans.
4. Still the feeling which prompted to this was true and right. It showed the existence of the sense of sinfulness. Those who do not feel that they are in danger will make no effort to escape. Those who do will make earnest efforts to find deliverance and safety. Is there, however, any way of escape, any means of deliverance? We have seen how vain and futile all merely human attempts have been to bring deliverance. Are we shut up to despair? It is here Revelation meets us with the announcement that—
III. The cross of Christ is the means of redemption.—
1. That and not less is the claim made by our Lord and His apostles. “He was wounded for our transgressions,” etc. (Isaiah 53:5; 1 John 1:7; Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5). This is the central truth of redemption. There are other truths most grand and important, other aspects of this divine work necessary in their proper place. This is fundamental so far as sinful men are concerned. Take away this and there remains a beautiful moral system, high above others even in this aspect, but nothing more.
2. And that the atoning purpose of Christ’s cross is the central and all-embracing purpose so far as man is concerned is shown by this: that it is only when that purpose is realised and personally appropriated by faith that the full blessedness of the gospel comes to individuals. It has always been where faith in this great central truth has been firm and clear that men have entered into truest peace, have become most Christlike, have reached highest heights of attainment.
3. But there must be the personal acceptance of and trust in Christ and His cross in order to this end. A mere general and vague belief can hardly be dignified with the name of faith. True, even though genuine faith be “as a grain of mustard seed,” it will have power. But it must be genuine and it must be personal. It uplifts the burden of guilt; it frees from the bondage of sin, of corruption. “The mountain is removed, and is cast into the sea” (Mark 11:23). When this point has been reached, then it is seen that—
IV. The saving power of Christ’s gospel is the true proof of His Messiahship.
1. Those to whom these things are realities need no further proof that Christ and His message are divine. The proof is within them; and however fierce may be the storms around them, “the anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, which entereth into that within the veil” (Hebrews 6:19) will hold. And the proof will not only be a personal one; it will assuredly affect others, it will be a test of their sincerity.
2. True, many will pass by or slight this proof, just as the Jews slighted our Lord’s miracles. But in doing so they will condemn themselves, for examination would have convinced them that the moral miracles effected by the gospel during the eighteen centuries that have passed away since Christ’s passion never have been and cannot be effected by any other power. A dispassionate historical survey would convince unbiassed minds that “the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation,” etc. (Romans 1:16).
3. Those who “despise and reject,” who are unbelieving, are in a greater or less degree themselves to blame. They have permitted themselves to be led away by authority inimical to Christ, without making earnest search themselves; or they are shackled by some besetting sin and do not desire freedom; or they are merely nominal disciples of the Redeemer and have not personally known the saving power of His gospel. Such considerations should lead professing Christians to give diligence to make their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). Is it not the lack of this that leads to such feeble, listless confession of Christ, such worldliness in the Church? “The wheat and tares are to grow together till the harvest” (Matthew 13:30). But make sure that your life is a wheat and not a tare life! For that is the end of Christ’s atonement. “When thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed,” etc. (Isaiah 53:10). And His seed will yield fruit.
(1) Here is the test of a sincere faith: it works by love, it leads to consecration and self-sacrifice. Those whose hearts are filled with divine love give a holy service. The mother who truly loves her child will do and give all that is possible, apart from what is wrong and evil, for her child. And so in all ranks and grades of pure human affection.
(2) Love to the Redeemer must manifest itself in the same way. But how feeble it is in the case of many when we consider how little is done by the mass of Christians to make known the love of Christ! How many “spend and are spent” in the service of the world, whilst the service of Christ hardly costs them a thought! Is it not because they have never really known and loved Him, never truly felt the guilt of sin, the need of pardon, the peace of Christ? And are they not thereby cumbering the ground and hindering Christ’s kingdom?
(3) Were all who profess to be Christ’s disciples truly consecrated to His service, this would prove the greatest check to unbelief, and not afar, but near, would be the hour when Ho should “see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.”
John 12:44-50. The declaration of Jesus in view of the world’s unbelief.—Of these words Bengal says: “He spoke these words in the act of going away, when He had already gone a considerable distance from the men; wherefore it is said that He cried, so that those to whom He had been speaking might hear.” Rather it would seem an utterance of His heart in the presence of His disciples, in view of the unbelief of Israel—a cry to them to witness that He had testified the truth to the unbelieving, since He had not spoken of Himself, but as the Father commanded Him. In these words Jesus declared that He had delivered the appointed message, the reception of which is life to men.
I. The mission of Christ.—
1. Light was what the world was longing for, and life was what it above all needed. And Jesus came to earth to be the light and life of the world.
2. And the manner in which He brought light and life to men was by revealing, in Himself, the Father. It was this He was sent to accomplish—to speak what God had commanded, to do the Father’s will.
3. And this He could do because He Himself was the revelation of the Father, “the brightness of His glory,” etc. So that those who see Jesus in reality see the Father, and those who believe on Him believe on the Father who sent Him.
4. And thus He is the light of those who follow Him, who believe on Him. His revelation of the Father was not in vain for all. He became obedient unto death. Had He not turned aside from Satan’s wiles, then the world had remained in darkness and the shadow of death. But now through Him the light of the divine love, mercy, and wisdom hath for those who believe for ever dispelled the darkness.
5. In this revelation of the Father’s will, and in the doing of it, Jesus brought life to men. His commandment is life. He wills not the death of sinners, but their salvation. “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16).
II. The result of rejecting Christ.—
1. Whilst millions rejoice for time and eternity in this divine life and light, there are those who will not listen to the Revealer, and who, in rejecting Him, treasure up for themselves wrath in the day of wrath and of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Romans 2:5).
2. In their case the Word designed to bring life rises up as an avenger. Opportunities neglected, entreaties slighted, commands despised, shall rise up in judgment against those who will not hear and believe “in the last day.” Jesus came to save; but the rejection of His salvation must of necessity issue in judgment.
3. Men who reject the gospel remain in their sins, and thus are unlike God. Clinging to sin, they must be shut out from God, for with Him sin cannot dwell. Rejecting Christ, they choose darkness, and cannot dwell with light. Rejecting Christ, they reject the Father.
4. This, then, is no matter to be lightly thought of or set aside. Christ comes with lofty claims for acceptance before men. The witnesses of His gospel testify to Him on every side. Thus a terrible responsibility rests on those who hear the gospel. It is the part of true wisdom to examine it earnestly and sincerely. Woe to those who refuse to listen or who scornfully reject!
III. Christ has obediently and fully performed His mission.—
1. If men reject Christ, it is not because He has failed in any way to proclaim the Father’s will. With that will the Son is in complete agreement, and what He speaks is His Father’s word, His Father’s commandment, which is life everlasting for men. He is “the Word,” the divine Logos, the very expression of the Father’s mind and will.
2. Thus His mission had been fully performed, in willing submission to the Father. Not His own glory, but the Father’s; not His own work, but the Father’s, given Him to do; not His own words, but the Father’s. “Although He was the Saviour of the world, He will not seek to be looked on as the builder of that temple which is being raised in the world; but the Father had given Him, as it were, all the plans and designs; He is the Master-builder who carries out the Father’s designs. He speaks and interprets according as the Father desires, so entirely is His will merged in the will of His Father” (Lecher).
3. Christ, then, has done all things well. He can look back on that ministry now closing with the consciousness that the purpose of Him who sent Him has been carried out and His will obeyed.
4. And the path of safety for men is to obey His word as He obeyed the Father. Openly confess Him, undeterred by the fear of men (John 12:43); bend the will to the obedience of faith; overcome yourselves; consent to count all things but loss for Him; and lay hold of the better and enduring inheritance. For the divine commandment is to life; and “He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
John 12:43. The fear of men.—The ban of the Pharisees made those men afraid, and their fear was more powerful than the attraction toward the household of God.… They loved the praise of men. Therefore they could not be perfect in faith. The judgment which John heard from our Lord’s own mouth (John 5:44, etc.) he would never have uttered concerning a Nicodemus or a Joseph of Arimathæa.… No, not such weak ones are here meant, who slowly grew in faith and became strong in that hour in which the strong became weak; but those wretched souls who had experienced indeed the enlightening activity of the Light, yet had choked the germ of faith in its springing, because they loved darkness more than light, honour with men—their carnal Judaic honour—more than honour with God. Notice earnestly therefore that not alone those who have been inimical to the Gospel and stiff-necked in their opposition, but also some who “believed,” may be hardened, when they deny the power of faith, and do not learn to “hate” their own life in this world (John 12:25). Yes! the hardening of such as have known the truth, and yet wilfully turn their backs on it, is the most terrible result of all (2 Peter 2:21; Hebrews 6:4).—Translated from, Besser.
John 12:46-48. The end of rejection of Christ.—There is a darkness that will come, come upon all, must come. Men call it night; men call it death. Death is night; death is darkness. We must all die. That sentence is now called commonplace—to such vulgarity have we grown. If a preacher should stand up and say, “Man is mortal,” he would be said to have uttered a platitude—so have we fooled ourselves away! Yet we speak of spendthrifts and prodigals and persons who do not take hold of life by the right end, but prosper at the bank, in the shambles, in the market-place. Why, we are spendthrifts who have got through these elementary truths that ought to constitute the very capital of Christian meditation and practice. We must—I repeat it at the risk of uttering a commonplace—we must all face the darkness of death one by one. We have wronged ourselves by living much in crowds. It is well for us now and then to know that each for himself alone—alone—must die. What preparation have we made for death? There is only one rational and sufficient preparation, and that is walking while we have the light. Christ is the light of the world. Walking whilst we have Christ—an opportunity of studying Christ, an opportunity of receiving Christ into the heart, an opportunity of serving Christ by all good deeds. If you have made any other preparation for death you are foolish; and the very wisdom you have shown in making other preparation aggravates your folly. You have insured your life—you have let your soul go without defence. You have barred all the upper windows against the thief—you have left the front door of the house wide open. Sevenfold in folly are they who have made every possible preparation for death except walking in that light which sends a glorifying beam through the whole valley of its shadow.—Dr. Joseph Parker.